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FAQ - Civil Litigation

What is Civil Litigation?

Civil litigation is an adversarial legal process where a Plaintiff brings a lawsuit to right a civil wrong and recover damages and/or obtain other remedies.  Breach of contract, personal injury, wrongful termination, and conversion are just some examples of civil wrongs that often result in litigation.  The litigation process officially begins when the Plaintiff files a Complaint with the court and ends with a settlement or a judgment after a trial.

How do I start a lawsuit?

The lawsuit begins when the Plaintiff files a Complaint with the court.  The Complaint is a legal document that names the parties to the lawsuit, alleges the causes of action (e.g. breach of contract, negligence, etc.), and seeks damages.  Depending on the cause(s) of action being alleged, a Plaintiff is required to file the Complaint within a certain period of time, also called the statute of limitations.  After the Plaintiff files the Complaint with the court, the court will issue a Summons, which must be served on the Defendant with a copy of the Complaint.

I have been served with a Complaint. What now?

If you were served with a Complaint, you normally have 30 days to file a responsive document with the court.  If the Complaint is not defective and is served properly, the Defendant must file an Answer, which is the Defendant’s formal written reply.  The Defendant must file the Answer within 30 days.  Failure to do so may result in a default judgment being entered against the Defendant.  If the Defendant has claims against the Plaintiff or against other parties, the Defendant should also file a Cross-Complaint.

What happens after the defendant files his or her Answer?

In most cases, the court will schedule a case management conference where the parties will be ordered to attempt some form of alternative dispute resolution like mediation or arbitration.  Depending on the complexity of the case, the court may schedule additional case management conferences before setting a trial date.  Eventually, a trial will take place if alternative dispute resolution is unsuccessful.

How much will my civil lawsuit cost me?

This is by far the most common question and the most difficult to answer.  The short answer is that it depends.  Every lawsuit is different with respect to cost.  A great deal of cost is determined by what the opposing side decides to do, so no one ever knows for sure what a lawsuit will end up costing.

We take every step possible to keep our services affordable.  Every case does not require an expensive trial, so we will often attempt to resolve a client’s legal challenges through mediation, arbitration, or informal negotiation.  We are always conscious of the cost factor associated with a lawsuit, so we do everything possible to control costs and fees.




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