How a Lawsuit Works


A lawsuit is a civil court action in which one party, called the plaintiff, seeks a remedy. This may involve money damages, or non-monetary equitable relief, such as an injunction against harming another person or business.

Generally, a lawsuit will be resolved before it goes to trial. However, the parties to a civil suit can appeal a decision to a higher court. They can also ask for a remand to a lower court.

In most states, a complaint is required to be brief and to list only the facts. It also must include a prayer for relief. If the case goes to trial, the plaintiff’s claim will be tested by an expert witness, typically a doctor or scientist.

After the plaintiff’s complaint has been filed, the defendant must respond. The defendant may deny the complaint, or file a counterclaim against the plaintiff. If the defendant does not answer, the plaintiff can move for a default judgment.

During discovery, the parties go back and forth to determine what the other party knows and what evidence is available. The purpose of discovery is to eliminate surprises. The discovery process is structured to ensure that all the information is available before a judge makes a decision.

Before a case is heard, both parties must submit a brief to the judge. The brief outlines the evidence, and sets out the arguments for and against each side.

A jury will be selected to hear the case. Once a jury is chosen, the case can proceed to a trial. During the trial, the parties can present arguments to the judge, who will decide the case.

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