Litigation is likely the most recognizable type of law. TV shows, movies, and books often feature attorney arguing their case in the courtroom. Litigation is the process of presenting an argument through the court system so that a dispute may be resolved. It refers to both criminal as well as civil law.
Civil litigation encompasses several areas of law, including commercial and business litigation, contract disputes, family law, personal injury, class actions, and bankruptcy, to name only a few.
If you decide to file a civil lawsuit in Florida, you and the “at-fault” party will proceed through various steps in the litigation process as outlined in the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, until ultimately, the outcome of the case is decided. Most cases will settle prior to trial. Generally, however, in a civil lawsuit, the process includes three phases: pleadings, discovery, and trial.
A lawsuit is initiated by filing a Complaint with the court and providing a copy to the other party. The party filing the Complaint is now the Plaintiff and the “at-fault party” is now the Defendant. Once the Complaint is filed, the Defendant must reply within a set amount of time or risk “losing” the case. The Defendant’s reply is called the Answer.
As is the case many times in the legal field, the pleadings are not always so straightforward. There may be a few steps between the Complaint and Answer as a Defendant can file certain motions prior to filing an Answer and may also file a counterclaim. Know that, however, once the Answer is filed, the case will move forward to the next phase in the litigation process.
After the initial pleadings are filed, the parties will move into discovery. During discovery, the parties will gather information relevant to the case. Information can be obtained from the other party as well as third parties to the lawsuit.
Discovery is conducted by way of Interrogatories (questions), Requests to Admit (asking the other party to admit or deny certain statements), Request to Produce (asking that certain items or documents be provided), Depositions (asking a party questions while present), Expert Witness Testimony, and Motions (asking the court to rule on an issue in the case).
If at any time during or after discovery, the parties come to a settlement agreement, the case will conclude at that time. If the case fails to settle, however, the parties will proceed to trial. During trial each side will present evidence to a judge (bench trial) or to a judge and jury (jury trial) in an attempt to prove their case. After each side has presented evidence by way of opening and closing statements, witnesses, and exhibits, the jury (or judge in a bench trial) will decide the outcome of the case based on applicable law.
Call Attorney Neil Morales to Discuss Your Case
It is possible to represent yourself in court as a “pro se” plaintiff or defendant, but litigation is very complex and can be a confusing process. Whether you have a bankruptcy, personal injury, or family law concern, Mr. Neil Morales has valuable litigation experience and is available to discuss your case and legal options going forward.