CIVIL LITIGATION BASICS
After gathering the necissary evidence, the next step involves preparing the pleadings. Both parties involved will file pleadings for the initial court documents explaining their side of the story. For the plaintiff, who initiates the lawsuit, the documents is called a complaint. A complaint is the the initial pleading document that states the wrongdoings of the defendant and what the plaintiff seeks out of the case. These will be served to the defendant or their attorney if represented.
After service of the complaint, the defendant's initial pleading is called an “answer.” This answers the accusations or allows the defendant to ask for more clarification on the case.
Once the pleadings have been filed with the court, then discovery begins. The discovery process involves several procedures, which inlcude an in-depth legal research, review of documents, witness interviews if needed, and other steps to gather necissary information. Attorneys may call in expert witnesses to validate their arguments, and they may elicit their help to testify when the case goes to court. During the discovery process, investigators or the attorney may examine the scene in question or request specific documentation and statements from the people involved in the case. Discovery is time-consuming, and this is where the attorney will spend the most time.
After both sides have finished their discovery process, the case heads to pre-trial. This is when your attorney and the attorney for the other party begin negotiations. Sometimes they can reach an agreeable settlement in the pre-trial phase, saving you from the frustrations and costs of court. During the pre-trial stage, either party can also use motions to ask the court to make a ruling or dismiss parts of the case before it actually heads to trial.
If you cannot reach an agreement in pre-trial, the case will go to trial. This may or may not involve a jury, depending on the circumstances of the case. Before the trial, the plaintiff and defendant will provide their briefs to the judge. These documents outline their arguments and the evidence both parties have. At the trial, each party will have the option to make opening statements, then pursue arguments and questioning, and craft closing arguments. The judge and jury will then decide the verdict.