What Is a Lawsuit?

A lawsuit is the legal process in which one person (called the plaintiff) files a complaint against another party in a civil court. The plaintiff claims that the defendant harmed them in some way.

Generally speaking, a lawsuit involves the following steps:


In some jurisdictions, a civil case can begin with nothing more than a written complaint that a plaintiff serves on the defendant. This complaint outlines the nature of the damage or injury that was caused and the legal basis for seeking relief from the defendant.


During the discovery period, parties may seek information from each other and/or third parties by making requests to produce documents or by asking questions under oath. This is a vital part of the preparation for trial and is meant to eliminate surprises, clarify what the lawsuit is about and make it clear that any frivolous or unsubstantiated claims should be dropped before a trial begins.


In a jury trial, the evidence is presented to a judge or a jury and a decision is announced. Either party can then appeal to an appellate court.

Jury trials are the most common method of trying a civil lawsuit, but a judge can also try cases. The trial process typically involves a hearing in which the parties present witnesses and collect evidence for trial.

A successful lawsuit requires a strong cause of action and solid legal theory. The defendant is also responsible for proving their case, so it’s crucial to have a lawyer on your side who has experience in the area of law involved.

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