Civil litigation may go through as many as seven different stages before reaching its conclusion. While not every lawsuit includes all of these stages, you will typically experience at least four stages before the conclusion of your case. Below, you can learn more about all seven of these potential stages.
Stage One: Investigation
All civil litigation goes through this initial investigation phase. Your attorney will typically be responsible for the investigation, and they may work with a private investigator as well. During this stage of the case, your lawyer will look for supporting evidence that can help win your case. This can include things such as evidence from an accident scene, medical records, and interviewing witnesses informally.
Stage Two: Pleadings
The initial lawsuit paperwork is called pleadings. Every person involved in a civil lawsuit files a pleading that details their side of the case. The complaint is typically the most important of the pleadings. The complaint comes from the plaintiff, and it will review all damages suffered and all essential facts in the case.
Stage Three: Discovery
The discovery stage of civil litigation involves fact gathering. Both sides involved in the case are able to formally exchange information about the upcoming trial during discovery. This information includes a list of evidence and witnesses that will be presented during the trial. The discovery phase of a case helps prevent surprises during the trial and allows both sides to prepare equally.
Stage Four: Pre-Trial
During the pre–trial stage, the attorneys for both sides will enter into conferences and negotiations. In a large number of cases, particularly in situations like accident cases, you can reach a settlement during this stage. The plaintiff’s attorney will make an initial monetary demand during this stage, and the defendant’s attorney has a limited amount of time to answer. The negotiations may go back and forth for some time, but most cases can be resolved during pre-trial.
Stage Five: Trial
Stage four is the trial, if the case could not be resolved during pre-trial. The trial is a formal process that allows both sides the opportunity to present their case. During a civil trial, both sides can present evidence and witnesses. Attorneys for both sides can cross-examine witnesses during the trial.
Stage Six: Settlement
During stage six, the settlement is made. The settlement will be announced by a judge after careful consideration of everything revealed during the trial phase. This settlement is considered a final outcome, however if you don’t agree with the outcome or feel it was unfair you may appeal.
Stage Seven: Appeal
Your attorney can file an appeal on your behalf if you wish to dispute the outcome of the case. It may take some time for an appeal to begin. However, appeals may move more quickly than the original case once they begin. Your attorney has the benefit of having all the evidence and necessary information close at hand since it was recently needed for the original case, and this may speed your appeal along.
If you or your loved ones are involved in an altercation, call Odle Law to help plead your case.
To read about a hypothetical civil litigation case, check out our blog: What to Do when Holidays Go Haywire.