Unlike a criminal case, which seeks punishment, a civil case pursues compensation. A civil action starts when one individual (the plaintiff) files a complaint against another individual (the defendant) for some wrongdoing that caused harm or did not fulfill a contract. Both sides are referred to as “parties” or “litigants.”
Who can file a civil suit?
Any person or business, who has suffered damage, can file a civil lawsuit.
Should I file in state or federal court?
Jurisdiction is a court’s authority to hear a case and a court must have jurisdiction to pass judgement. Most likely, an individual would file a civil lawsuit in a nearby state court.
Federal courts hear cases based upon federal law, or if the parties live in different states and the lawsuit is for more than $75,000.
What are the parts of a civil trial?
Some cases are only tried before a judge, like in family court. In the case of a personal injury trial, however, there would be an 8-person jury present as well.
Here are the main parts of a complete civil trial:
- Jury selection
- Opening statements
- Witness testimony
- Cross examination
- Closing arguments
- Jury Instruction
- Jury Deliberation
- Final Verdict
What happens during a civil trial?
During a civil trial the plaintiff bears the burden of proof to argue his or her case to the judge or jury, and the defendant refutes the plaintiff’s claim. Evidence is submitted by one or both sides, and the judge or jury determine if the defendant is liable, and to what extent. The ruling may be in the favor of the plaintiff, the defendant or both.
How is a decision made in a civil lawsuit?
A judge or jury makes their decision by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning it is more likely than not, and the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. If they decide the plaintiff has proven his or her case, the judge or jury will decide the amount of damages to be awarded to the plaintiff.
What are the different types of civil cases?
Civil cases involve conflicts between people or businesses, typically over money. Cases usually involve personal injury, property damage, defamation (damaging someone’s reputation), breach of contract, and landlord and tenant disputes.
Examples of civil cases include:
- Personal Injury
- Medical Malpractice
- Breach of Contract
Do all civil lawsuits go to trial?
Most civil cases are resolved through settlement negotiations and do not go to trial. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is the process of settling out of court and includes arbitration or mediation as alternatives to a trial. The case may also be dismissed.
What does it mean to get “served?”
When a plaintiff initiates a lawsuit against a defendant, the plaintiff is legally required to give the defendant proper notice, as well as copies of all documents filed with the court. This “service of process” is usually done in person by a third-party professional referred to as a process server.
Can I ignore a summons and complaint?
No. If you get served with any legal documents, don’t ignore them. Even if you are unaware what the summons and complaint is about or who the plaintiff is, ignoring the papers may result in a default judgement that could sit on your record for years without your knowledge.
For over 50 years, our attorneys have earned a reputation for providing trusted, expert legal services to our community and its businesses. When you need legal assistance, contact a law firm you can trust. Gottlieb, Johnston, Beam & Dal Ponte, P.L.L.
As personal injury attorneys, we represent individuals who have been physically and financially injured because of the negligence of others. We often get asked questions regarding civil lawsuits and the civil litigation process. This article explains only the basics, so if you have any questions please contact Gottlieb, Johnston, Beam, and Dal Ponte, P.L.L.