A guide to what takes place in a civil case

Many civil proceedings are settled before the trial takes place. However, it takes time to find a settlement if an affair is before the civil court. Civil cases start with the filing but can continue for years if a decision or judgment is appealed. Knowing what can be expected can help to minimize any vulnerability.

In the civil court, what happens?

In a civil case, another party is issued by an individual or a private entity. All sides are the claimant and the defendant (the party bringing the case) (the party defending against the case). The claimant either demands restitution or damages or requests the courthouse to order the accused to meet those obligations.

These cases vary from criminal cases. These cases are distinct. The most important thing to remember is that a criminal case is brought against someone charged with violating the law by a state or federal government. In comparison, when the defendant charges the individual or entity with failure to comply with legal obligations, a civil case occurs.

For instance, when the supplier of the small business owner infringes a contract, the matter is civil. Also, if a doctor harms a patient with negligent care, the resulting misconduct occurs before the courts.

The stage of appeal: complaints and motions from the court

A complaint or petition is called a document that sets civil cases in motion. This paper presents the facts, explains why the court has the competence, and details the claimants’ claims for relief (e.g. money or an injunction).

Defendants are then called to inform them of the case and the date on which they need to be brought to trial. The defendant typically has 30 days to reply to the claims of the plaintiff. The defendant risks a default judgment on behalf of the plaintiff without a timely answer.

The defendant can now decide to reply with a request for dismissal. This motion calls upon a judge to reject the case because, for example, the applicant has no jurisdiction or has not filed a valid legal claim. The defendant may move to a summary judgment once the defendant has responded.

A request for a synthesis requests the judge to make a decision on the facts as set out in the pleadings, as the parties agree to do so. No trial is necessary, and the judge may make a summary judgment, with no material dispute on the facts.

The preliminary stage: discovery and information

In a civil case, discovery is the procedure where both parties share before trial facts and details. Discovery takes two forms — questions and submissions.

The questions asked by the plaintiff to the defendant are written questions. These questions must be answered in writing and in full by the defendant.

Deposits are sworn declarations made by a witness to answer questions from lawyers of the other side. A reporter at the court shall transcribe all testimonies of the deposition. Usually, deposits are done outside the courthouse and can last from an hour to more than one week.

When all the proof is clear to all sides, they may seek to settle the case by a process other than a courtroom. A Party can retable a summary judgment request or a settlement agreement may be reached between the parties.

A possibility is also an alternative dispute settlement (ADR). The parties may decide, for instance, to conduct mediation. An impartial mediator in that case helps the parties to arrive at a mutually agreeable resolution. This option is often chosen because mediation is cheaper, less stressful, and less official than civil lawsuits.

If at the conclusion of the discovery the parties cannot agree, the next move is for the judge to issue a preliminary decision. The judge will issue an order outlining the timeline for a trial after consulting with the parties.

The stage of the trial: from jurors to decisions

The civil court phases are similar to those in a criminal case, but there is a distinct standard of evidence.

The prosecution must prove its culpability beyond any reasonable doubt in criminal trials. But the plaintiff just has to prove in a court case that the defendant is more likely than not to be responsible.

The regular civil cases are as follows:

  1. The option of a jury. If the parties do not request a jury, in what is known as a bench trial, a judge hears a civil case. When a jury is asked, the lawyers on either side challenge prospective jurors in a procedure known as seeing dire from the available pool. This procedure aims to eradicate lawyers that have preconceptions that influence their ability to pronounce an unbiased decision.
  2. The claim of opening. Both the lawyers and the defendant will make an opening statement to the jury, explain the case of their client, and summarize the proof to support it.
  3. The plaintiff calls and puts facts to witnesses. The prosecutor calls first the witnesses and only the defense will interrogate the witnesses.
  4. The defendant calls and puts facts to witnesses. The defense will continue with the same procedure when the plaintiff rests, or when he has finished presenting evidence. A prosecution witness could then be interrogated.
  5. The claimant can call excessive testimonials. The complainant has another opportunity to provide proof and witnesses to contradict the evidence or evidence provided by the defense
  6. The argument is closed. The lawyers of the two sides will present the jury with final statements, which sum up their cases and try to convince the jury of their claims.
  7. Directions from the jury and deliberation. It will instruct and enable the Judge to retire to deliberate and to reach a judgment on the law applicable to the matter.
  8. The judgment. The judgment of the jury shall either hold the defendant to account or not to account.
  9. End decision. In accordance with the verdict, the judge either dismisses the case or makes a final judgment of the jury approved relief, such as a money ruling, against the defendant.

Appeals after the trial:

The party that loses the case or the party that has been tried or judged has the right to appeal the matter to a higher court. If losing parties do not file an appeal within 30 days of the date of the judgment in the case, loser parties shall waive this right.

Civil proceedings often take years to resolve with so many steps. However, when your situation is like others, you and the other party reach an understanding that will eliminate trials.