Our Practice Areas:
ORLANDO – KISSIMMEE
CIVIL LAWSUIT ATTORNEYS
Civil lawsuits simply refer to lawsuits filed by individuals or businesses which seek to enforce a legal right. Most of the times, the remedy sought is in the form of a money judgment, but it could be an order for other relief, such as the return of personal or real property.
SUMMONS IN A CIVIL LAWSUIT
A lawsuit starts with a summons which is in essence the cover page of a lawsuit. It will warn you that you have 20 days to respond to a lawsuit (or 21 days for a Federal suit). The summons will provide addresses for you to direct your response to the lawsuit.
BEING A DEFENDANT IN A LAWSUIT
When you are a defendant in a lawsuit contact our civil law attorneys at once to schedule a review of the suit. All civil suits have the goal of seizing the defendant’s money or property or it may have the goal is blocking the defendant from acting a certain way (for example, opening a competing business).
If you fail to respond in the 20 days allotted the Court will declare the plaintiff the winner of the lawsuit by default (just as if a boxer failed to show for the match, the one who showed up is declared the winner).
Often, we can review your suit without even you coming to the office. We will obtain a copy of the summons and civil lawsuit and analyze the situation.
SPEED OF A CIVIL LAWSUIT
You will find that the words “fast” and “car” go together, and you will also find the words “fast” and “food” go tother. However, what NEVER goest together are the words “fast” and “court” In order words, there are few things that proceed slower than civil lawsuit. Although the time a civil lawsuit takes varies, a suit that resolves within 6 months from filing would be considered lightning speed in Court.
WHY ARE CIVIL SUITS SOO SLOW?
Civil lawsuits are slow because there are a myriad of steps each case has to traverse before the judge can render a decision.
We will be covering four common steps involved in most civil lawsuits.
Pleadings – the First Step in a Civil Lawsuit
The pleadings are the initial step in the civil lawsuit. Each side, or party, will file paperwork to explain their side of the story. The person bringing on the lawsuit, or plaintiff, will file a complaint. The person being alleged of wrongdoing, or defendant, will file an answer.
Once the initial complaint is filed, the civil lawsuit is legally underway.
What is a Complaint?
The complaint is a formal document filed by the plaintiff with the court. The plaintiff is also responsible for formally delivering the complaint to the defendant, by “the summons” mentioned above.
The complaint is just that – a complaint. It details the plaintiff’s description of the events that lead to the dispute, outlining the ways in which the defendant caused harm to the plaintiff. The complaint also establishes a legal basis for holding the defendant responsible for the defendant’s alleged actions.
What is an Answer?
The answer is just that – an answer. The answer is a response to the plaintiff’s complaint. The answer details the defendant’s description of the events that lead to the dispute, outlining any inaccuracies or falsehoods that they find in the complaint.
The defendant can file a counter-claim if they so choose. The counter-claim(s) is an allegation(s) against the plaintiff, outlining the ways in which the plaintiff caused harm to the defendant. The counter-claim also establishes a legal basis for holding the plaintiff responsible for the plaintiff’s alleged actions.
Often the defendant does not even answer the allegations of the complaint but files a response saying the case cannot proceed because of some problem with the case. There are many types of problems that can be raised. An example of one problem is that a business that is unregistered with the State of Florida cannot entertain a lawsuit so the defendant will ask the case to be dismissed in the meantime.
Amended Complaints & Answers
As a response to replies, or in the instance that one party requests clarification over legal theories or allegations in the other party’s pleadings, a complaint or answer may be amended.
A party can ask that a specific part of any pleadings also be dismissed by the court, in which cases, a pleading would also be amended.
Discovery – the Second Step in a Civil Lawsuit
After both parties have completed the pleadings process, both parties will enter discovery.
Discovery is a process in which both parties begin to obtain information to help strengthen their arguments. The theory of broad rights of discovery is that both the plaintiff and defendant will enter the trial with as much information as possible to make their case. Discovery also keeps the parties from hiding information from one another.
Discovery is generally the longest part of the civil litigation process. Discovery begins after all pleadings have been filed and do not end until shortly before the trial.
How do Parties Gain Knowledge through Discovery?
Each party will obtain information through demands for production of documents, depositions of parties and witnesses, written interrogatories (questions and answers written under oath), written requests for admissions of fact, examination of the scene, and the petitions and motions employed to enforce discovery rights.
Parties may also use expert witnesses to gain knowledge about the case during discovery. Expert witnesses are brought in to validate arguments and testify on behalf of a party’s claim.
Motions During or After Discovery
Before the trial begins, either during the discovery process or shortly after, parties may use motions to ask the court to rule or act. The motion can be a request to amend or dismiss part of the case, question legal basis or languages used by the other party, or clarification of certain issues in the lawsuit.
Trial – the Third Step in a Civil Lawsuit
After discovery has ended, if the dispute is not resolved out of court, the civil lawsuit will move to trial.
Before the trial begins, both parties will submit a brief to the judge. A brief is a document which outlines the party’s argument as well as any evidence that the party will present during the trial.
At the trial, both the plaintiff and the defense will present their arguments to either a judge or jury. Trials involving a judge and no jury are referred to as bench trials. If the trial is set to be decided by a jury, both parties help make juror selections through a pre-trial process of potential-juror interviews called a voir dire.
Once the trial begins, both parties present their opening statements. Opening statements are brief outlines of the parties’ arguments.
After opening statements are made, each party introduces its case. The plaintiff always presents its case first. The defense presents its case after. After the defense has presented its case, the plaintiff has one last opportunity to present additional evidence – known as rebuttal evidence.
Each party will present its cases using evidence , which can include documents, expert testimony, or exhibits that support its argument. Witnesses may be called to the stand for questioning. After a witness is examined by one party, the opposing party can choose to cross-examine the witness.
Once each party has had an opportunity to present its case, both will make a closing argument.
In a jury trial, after closing arguments, the judge instructs the jury on the legal basis that it should apply to the evidence. The jury deliberates for a period of time until a verdict is reached.
In a bench trial, the judge deliberates for a period of time until a decision or verdict is reached.
After Verdict has been Made
After the verdict is made, a party can choose to challenge the verdict. These challenges are more common during jury trials because errors and disregard of law or legal definitions occur more often by juries. A party can file a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, asking for the judge to make a decision without consideration to the jury’s verdict. A party can also file a motion for a new trial.
Appeal – the Fourth Step in a Civil Lawsuit
If a party does not agree with the result of the trial, they can appeal the decision. If a decision is appealed, then the civil lawsuit is presented to an appellate court that reviews the previous proceedings of the lawsuit.
Each party will submit a brief and a record of evidence from trial to the appellate court. The appellate court looks for any errors in legality made during the pre-trial or trial proceedings.
After reviewing the proceedings, the appellate court releases an opinion, which is the appellate court’s decision. The opinion can either affirm the verdict made by the trial court or find an error, in which case the appellate court may reverse the verdict or order a new trial be conducted by the trial court.
Consider Speaking with a Civil Law Attorney: David Chico Law Group
Civil lawsuits can be draining. If you need civil law help, a great first step is to learn about your legal rights, which is best accomplished by speaking with a David Chico Law Group Lawyer.