What is Civil Litigation: Everything You Need to Know.
Civil litigation: not many people are familiar with it. There are those who don’t know how it works, and those who don’t even know what it is. But if you do know about civil litigation, then there’s a small chance that you’ve studied law. Either that or you’ve been through a civil lawsuit yourself.
Regardless, this knowledge can be invaluable in the future. One just never knows when it will come in handy!
This is a quick rundown of all the basics of civil litigation and why it should matter to you. We’ll give you an overview of how this process works. Afterwards, you’ll be ready to work with your own lawyer to face any lawsuit that may come your way.
If you are in need of an attorney, Gudeman and Associates Attorneys can manage all phases of the lawsuit process, so you can get through it confidently.
In general terms, a civil lawsuit is the court-based process through which a person can seek another person or entity liable for some type of “wrong”. A civil lawsuit can be brought over a contract dispute, for example. It can result from a residential eviction after a broken lease, or injuries sustained in a car accident, and so on.
This is different from a criminal case—something that we will discuss further later on. But a civil case is meant to compensate the victim. Litigators are lawyers that specialize in civil litigation.
Let’s take a closer look at all the facts you need to know about civil litigation.
What is Civil Litigation?
So first things first: what exactly is civil litigation? This term refers to the legal dispute between two or more parties that seek money damages, property or specific performance, which is the performance of a contractual duty.
Civil litigation is when a party seeks money or another specific performance instead of criminal sanctions. They must head to the courtroom for trial, so that a judge or jury can decide on the matter.
What is a Litigation Attorney?
A litigation attorney is someone you’ll rely on when either filing a civil lawsuit or facing one. No matter which end of the table you are on, you will need a lawyer who is specifically trained in these matters. As such, a litigation attorney is a lawyer who specializes in civil litigation.
They are also known as a “litigator” or a “trial lawyer”. Their job is to represent the client across a broad spectrum of associated proceedings. That includes pretrial hearings and depositions, mediation, etc. Arbitration and mediation are processes that attempt to guide the parties toward some sort of mutual decision, also known as a settlement.
The settlement actually saves a lot of time and keeps both parties from the expenses of going to court.
Litigation attorneys will represent plaintiffs and defendants in civil cases, so the role is understandably challenging and diverse. You’ll need someone experienced because the process is naturally adversarial. Two or more parties are pitted against each other throughout the whole process. From investigation, pleadings and discovery, to pre-trial hearings and depositions, trial, settlement, and appeal—your litigation attorney will be there.
You can expect attorneys specializing in this field to be willing to embrace conflict and controversy, as those factors are often unavoidable. They must be willing to get out of their comfort zone every now and then.
But most importantly, a litigation attorney should have enough knowledge and skills that are essential to the practice. Key legal skills include knowledge of substantive and procedural law; strong written and oral advocacy skills; analytical and logical reasoning abilities; interpersonal skills; knowledge of legal research techniques and software, and even negotiation skills.
What is the Difference between a Civil Case and a Criminal Case?
There are plenty of ways a civil case differs from a criminal case. The most obvious one seems to be the end result. In a civil case, the loser pays in dollars. But if you lose a criminal case, you will spend time behind bars, pay a fine, perform community service, or a combination of these.
Civil lawsuits are filed because the plaintiff is asking the court to make a judgment in their favor: to issue a court order entitling the plaintiff to a certain amount of money, called a damages award. If someone sues you for something, and the court decides in favor of the complainant, you will have to pay for these damages.
On the other hand, if you are convicted of a crime, you will face the prospect of going to jail.
But the differences go beyond what’s at stake. Civil suits can be brought by anyone, whereas a criminal case is brought by a prosecutor or other attorney representing the local government. Civil cases are usually instigated by a private party against a certain other individual or entity. A person or business who has allegedly suffered some kind of damage will file a civil case with the help of their own lawyer.
The burden of proof in a civil case can also be considered “lighter” compared to that of a criminal case. The burden of proof is something that must be shown in order for the defendant to be held liable for what the plaintiff is alleging.
In a civil case, the burden of proof is “by a preponderance of the evidence”. This means it is more likely than not that what the plaintiff is alleging is actually true.
In a criminal case, the government must show that the defendant’s guilt is beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a much tougher standard to meet, meaning more evidence is required.
What are the Types of Civil Litigation?
Civil litigation encompasses a broad range of disputes. Litigators usually specialize in one or two specific practice areas. Common areas of specialization include: environmental law, landlord/tenant disputes, product liability lawsuits, personal injury claims, intellectual property disputes, anti-trust litigation, real estate lawsuits, workers’ compensation claims, construction liability lawsuits, divorce lawsuits, medical malpractice claims, and education law disputes.
Criminal charges and penalties may not be an issue for many of these disputes, and that’s where civil litigation comes in.
What are the Benefits of Hiring a Civil Litigation Lawyer?
For those who are facing any type of civil law issue, it can be a nerve-wracking experience. You will surely have concerns and questions regarding the steps you need to take, and how you should tackle this whole legal process.
You will need a strategy in order to defend yourself properly, if the case happens to make it to the court. This is why you need to hire a civil litigation expert.
You will need someone who understands how to protect your rights. You will have someone who knows how to navigate this tricky landscape. And civil litigation happens to be a very complex situation. It can be crucial in having a positive outcome to your case. Otherwise, you might end up losing in court.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of hiring a civil litigation lawyer is the peace of mind they can provide. Filing or facing this type of case is stressful to say the least. You might think you can represent yourself in court—but in reality, only a few people can actually manage to pull it off successfully.
With an attorney, you will have someone in your corner who has spent years studying the law. This experience is crucial, especially in the courtroom. Their experience will work in your favor because they know how to speak to judges. Their calm demeanor will allow you to stay calm as well—if you follow their lead, of course.
And we haven’t even talked about how time consuming it is to file all those court documents by yourself. An attorney can make it easier for you. Navigating a lawsuit is difficult enough.
Sure, legal assistance generally isn’t cheap, but you can actually save more money down the road if you hire a lawyer. If you lose your case, you have to pay fines and penalty fees. There’s a huge possibility that you’ll end up spending more cash than if you just hired a professional to help you with the case.
Last but not least, you need to hire a litigation lawyer because the other party most likely has one. If you are unrepresented, the other party’s attorney will likely take advantage of your inexperience. They will make the most out of the fact that you know less about the law than they do. And this can cost you the case.
You need to have a knowledgeable team of lawyers on your side, looking out for your best interests. No matter what type of civil litigation case you may be facing, you need to have someone representing you. After all, civil litigation is the type of legal process that is extremely particular when it comes to particular filings and procedures. A single error can lead to some very serious consequences.
You can avoid this entirely by working with not just any civil litigation attorney, but with the lawyers of Gudeman and Associates. Dealing with any type of civil litigation matter requires the services of experienced professionals, because every case is different.
Find a lawyer who understands that a cookie cutter strategy will not work for every single case. You will want someone who takes a personalized interest in helping you achieve your legal goals.
How Does the Process Work?
The civil litigation process involves seven different stages. This includes:
- Pre-trial proceedings
- Potential settlement
Out of all these stages, the discovery phase takes the longest. It is also the most labor-intensive out of all the stages in a case.
Most of billable hours are actually devoted to the discovery stage. This involves the exchange of information pertinent to the case through depositions, interrogatories, and subpoenas. These are demands for information or documents from third parties. Under penalty of perjury to the parties in a lawsuit, deposition and interrogatories involve questions that need to be answered. Deposition questions are posed orally—these are the ones that are answered under oath. On the other hand, interrogatories are written questions.
The interesting thing about the civil litigation process is that not every lawsuit actually passes through each stage. Most of them don’t.
Attempts are often made to guide the parties toward a settlement held before administrative agencies or court personel, before both parties go to trial. This saves time and expense of going to court. This is called arbitration or mediation.
Most lawsuits are settled this way, with both parties reaching an agreement instead of meeting at the courtroom. Parties can settle even during a trial—after a jury has begun deliberating, or has delivered a verdict.
They can also settle or “stipulate” to some aspects of the lawsuit, leaving others in the hands of the judge or the jury.
If the case does go all the way to trial, the entire process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.
Each case is different. Both sides of the case will have extremely different goals. But dealing with any type of civil litigation matter is a stressful experience. It is also very complicated. You will want to call on the services of an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer.
Civil litigation can be handled better with a support system and plenty of guidance from an attorney. Do not try to handle this whole procedure yourself when you can gain the services of someone who is qualified.
If you are in need of an attorney to be your advocate, Gudeman & Associates will work hard for you to ensure you achieve the best possible outcome.