TV shows have ruined our expectations of what it means to be involved in a lawsuit.
When we watch a show that portrays a lawsuit between two people, it gives the impression that only a few days or weeks have gone by from the time the lawsuit is filed until the parties are battling it out in court. However, in all reality, it may take over a year before a case sees the inside of a courtroom. The process is long, and filled with periods of “hurry-up-and-wait.”
From the beginning of a lawsuit, it is best to speak with your attorney about the overall strategy and process of bringing your case, so that you are prepared for the period where it seems like nothing is happening. While no two cases are exactly the same and make take different twists and turns, below is an overview of some of the key stages of the litigation process so you know what to expect.
- Starting the Lawsuit. After you meet with your attorney the first time and provide them with all the information, your attorney will draft the Complaint or Petition that is filed with the court. Your attorney will then work on having the opposing party “served” with an official copy of the lawsuit. This officially starts your lawsuit down the path.
- Answers and Motions. When the opposing party (the “Defendant”) receives the copy of the lawsuit, they then have a short period of time in which they can admit or deny the allegations you have made. This process can be sometimes prolonged if the Defendant files a motion with the court to try and dismiss your lawsuit before it is even started. If the Defendant does not submit an answer or motion to the court, then your attorney can file a motion of their own to have the court decide the case in your favor, due to the Defendant’s lack of reply.
- Written Discovery Requests. After the Defendant answers the lawsuit, then begins written discovery. This is perhaps one of the most important and longest stages of the litigation. Both sides send written questions and requests for various documents to the other side. These requests have to be answered truthfully and completely, and give each side the ability to start gathering the evidence they need to make their case.
- Depositions. Depending on the case, your attorney may want to take the deposition of the Defendant or another witness. This allows you to ask questions of that individual under oath, to lock in what they would testify to in court. It gives you a preview of what will come out at trial, and allow you to prepare for it or decide whether it is still worth it to proceed with the case.
- More Motions. Based on the evidence and testimony that comes out in written discovery and the depositions, one party or the other may file a Motion for Summary Judgment, saying that there is not really a dispute in the facts and that they should win the case as a result.
- Settlement or Trial. Most cases settle without going to trial. While settlement negotiations can occur at any stage of the litigation, this often occurs after all the discovery is done, and both parties now have a good idea about how strong the other side’s case is. If no settlement is reached, the parties then prepare to go to trial.
It can be a long and tedious road to take a case all the way to trial, and there are many steps along the way. A good trial attorney will help you to navigate through every step of the process, and keep you informed along the way. Call the experienced trial attorneys at Goosmann Law Firm, PLC, today.