A lawsuit is a legal dispute that comes to trial before a judge and/or jury. Generally, lawsuits involve one party, the plaintiff, suing another party, the defendant, for compensation. Lawsuits can become extremely complex to litigate. The amount of compensation sought, the facts of a case and whether the parties agree to mediation or arbitration can all impact how long it takes for a lawsuit to be resolved. Approximately 98 percent of all cases reach an agreement outside of the courtroom.
The process of deciding to sue is not an easy decision for many people. The first step is determining whether there are grounds to sue. This requires gathering evidence and evaluating how the behavior of the defendant negatively impacted you. The next step is deciding where to file a lawsuit, which court and the specific court rules that apply. This is an extremely complicated process and most people need to have a lawyer familiar with civil litigation cases to help them file the correct paperwork.
Once the papers have been filed, there is a period of time for the defendant to respond. The defendant may file an Answer to the Complaint, which is a response to the factual allegations and legal claims in the complaint. They may also file counter-claims, which are claims that they are owed compensation for harm caused by the plaintiff.
The next phase of the lawsuit is discovery, which involves obtaining documents and testimony from the defendant and other parties to the case. The timing of this phase is largely determined by the defendant, with some guidance from the court. In addition, the parties often submit a Request for Rehearing and/or a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to higher courts to address unresolved issues or to change rulings made by lower trial courts.