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Civil litigation is the process that allows individuals, businesses, and other entities to use the courts to settle disputes. Unlike criminal cases in which the government prosecutes someone for violating a criminal statute with the penalty being imprisonment or fines, civil litigation cases are private disputes. The parties usually seek a money judgment or some other remedy from a judge to make them whole or to end further harm.
Civil litigation can be divided into several stages, including; investigation, pleadings, discovery, pretrial proceedings, potential settlement or trial, and even appeal. Unlike the way they’re often portrayed on television, civil attorneys spend comparatively little time in the trial.
Discovery is typically the longest and most labor-intensive stage of a case. Much of their time is devoted to the discovery stage — exchanging information pertinent to the case through depositions, interrogatories, and subpoenas. The latter are demands for information or documents from third parties.
Depositions and interrogatories involve questions posed under penalty of perjury to the parties in a lawsuit. Deposition questions are posed orally under oath. Interrogatories are written questions.
Not every lawsuit passes through each stage — in fact, most don’t. The majority of lawsuits are settled by agreement of the parties and never reach the courtroom. Parties can settle during a trial, even after a jury has begun deliberating or has delivered a verdict. They can settle or “stipulate” to some aspects of the lawsuit, leaving others in the hands of the judge or jury.
When a case does go all the way to trial, the entire process, from filing documents with the court to initiate the case through resolution, can take anywhere from a few months to several years.
Civil litigation may involve any of the following:
- Trials & Appeals
- Commercial Litigation
- Business Litigation
- Corporate Litigation
- Business Dissolutions
- Shareholder and Member Disputes
- Real Estate Litigation
- Property Boundary Disputes
- Landlord/Tenant Disputes
- Construction Litigation
- Contract Disputes
- Farm and Ranch Litigation
- Estate Litigation
- Will Contests
- Trust Litigation
- Negligence & Torts
- Property Damages Disputes