In a perfect world, people would be able to resolve their disputes without going to court. While it is unfortunate that this is often not the case, state and federal courts provide a venue through which people may seek redress, called civil court. Civil litigation attorneys represent clients in legal disputes where they are seeking to either enforce or protect their legal rights in court. Civil litigation itself is a broad term that encompasses many different areas of law, and include the following:
- Personal Injury
- Real Estate Disputes
- Breach of Contract
- Wrongful Death
- Business Disputes
- Landlord/Tenant Disputes
- Restraining Orders
- And much more
Civil cases each have a specific judicial process depending on the type of case that is brought. It is important to discuss a potential case with a civil litigation attorney so that you can be properly advised of your rights, and the process by which you would seek to enforce those rights.
Remedies in civil litigation vary depending on your case. Usually cases involve some type of damages, or a request for what is referred to as equitable relief, such as specific performance, a protective order or an injunction. Hollingsworth Law Firm handles many different types of civil cases, and can guide you through the process of determining whether to initiate litigation.
Hollingsworth Law Firm also represents defendants in civil cases. If you have been named as a defendant in a lawsuit, it is important to obtain legal advise as to your options in defending yourself.
The Civil Judicial Process
The following is a general overview of the civil litigation process.
Investigation and Case Evaluation
The first step in determining whether to proceed with filing a case is the process of investigating of a potential claim. It is important to gather your evidence, flush out all details and issues, and build your case from the start so you can put your best foot forward in court. This requires cooperation with the client to obtain any necessary documentation to help them prove their claim. Sometimes this process leads to the client deciding not to proceed with their claim, whether it be based on lack of credible evidence or a risk/benefit analysis.
The Pleading Stage
The next step in the civil process is filing what is referred to as a pleading. Depending on the type of case, the pleading needs to be drafted and filed in a specific manner. For instance, cases against California government entities for personal injuries almost always require that a government claim be made prior to filing the pleading. Some real estate cases require that a title report be obtained and reviewed prior to filing the pleading. Medical malpractice cases requires that the plaintiff obtain the opinion of a medical professional prior to filing.
The Discovery Process
Once the complaint is filed, the defendant is served with copies of the pleadings. The defendant is then required to file a responsive pleading or a challenge to the complaint. The case then moves to what is called the "discovery" stage, where the parties to the action can use tools authorized by law to prove their case. This includes requesting that the legal opponent provide all facts, documents and the identities of witnesses relevant to their claims or defenses, whatever the case may be. Depositions are often taken of the parties and important witnesses. Expert witnesses are hired if it is necessary to prove or disprove liability.
During the discovery process, the parties will go before the court for status hearings, and a trial date will be assigned once the court feels the case is ready to proceed. Based on where a case is filed, a judge will set the trial date some time in the future dependent on that specific court's schedule and availability.
Mediation and Settlement
Courts encourage the parties to mediate their disputes in almost every matter. California state courts offer mediation programs that are discounted in matters that qualify for their mediation program. If a case does not qualify for a court-directed mediation program, parties to a lawsuit may still agree to mediate their dispute with a private mediator. While this option is more expensive than a court-directed mediation, a private mediator can be selected based on their knowledge and experience as it pertains to the subject matter.
Most courts also scheduled what is called a settlement conference, where the parties will appear in court and attempt to settle the case with a judge. Settlement conferences usually occur prior to trial once discovery has been completed or at least once the parties have a firm understanding of their case's strengths and weaknesses. Like mediation, settlement conferences are valuable tools that can lead to resolution.
If a case is not settled through mediation or another form, the case will proceed to trial, where a judge or jury will hear each party's evidence and arguments and make a decision as to who prevails. Trials are the culmination of your case, and require a great amount of preparation by both the attorney and the client.
What Does a Civil Litigation Attorney Do?
As you can see above, the civil process is incredibly complex. Each of the processes above are comprised of many moving parts, all of which require careful consideration. Hollingsworth Law Firm is available to consult with you regarding your civil case and guide you through the process step-by-step.