What is a Lawsuit?

A lawsuit is a legal dispute that is heard by a judge or jury. A civil lawsuit can be brought by individuals or businesses that wish to use the court system to pursue a remedy for something that has caused damage or injury. Lawsuits are divided into two categories: criminal and civil. Civil lawsuits are based on private wrongs and can seek remedies that do not involve incarceration or fines.

To begin a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff must file appropriate paperwork with the court in the jurisdiction that has authority to hear the case. This paperwork typically includes a cover sheet, summons and complaint. Once the papers have been filed, there is a period of discovery where both sides exchange evidence and witness testimony.

Once the case has been fully litigated, the judge or jury will determine the facts of the case (figure out what actually happened) and apply the law to those facts to decide what legal consequences should flow from those actions. The judge or jury may make a variety of rulings including:

Sometimes, parties to a lawsuit will resolve the dispute without having to go through trial by agreeing on a judgment. This agreement usually involves the payment of compensation to one party by the other. A jury can also resolve a case by reaching a unanimous verdict. Occasionally, juries are sequestered from outside influences during their deliberations. An appeal is a request by either the plaintiff or defendant for another court to review the case and determine whether the trial was conducted properly.

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