Perhaps you have just experienced a life-altering injury or have just recently lost a loved one in an accident that was someone else’s fault. The idea of filing a lawsuit is overwhelming and frightening, but you know that you need help making ends meet now. To protect your interest, you need to speak to an attorney, but you just don’t know what the process looks like once you hire him.
The First Steps
Lawsuits are initiated by the filing of a complaint. This opening document explains to the court and to the other party what harm was done and what the plaintiff is asking the court to do. Once the complaint is filed with the court, it gets served on the opposing party. Counsel for the opposing party will then file an answer.
What Happens Next?
Both parties are then allowed to send discovery to the other side. Discovery allows parties to ask for necessary information from the other party. Examples of requested information are bank records, medical records, employment records, and other information pertinent to the case. Information is also obtained from third parties when attorneys issue subpoenas. Subpoenas are used to gain information that may not be in the opposing party’s possession. For example, full employee files with notes about an employee’s performance.
Before the full hearing, either party may file motions asking for the court’s intervention or clarification on issues between the parties. These might include questions about witnesses, what exhibits or information will be allowed to be presented to the judge or the jury, or questions about timing or scheduling.
What if I Lose?
After the finding of the jury or the ruling of the judge, the losing party has the right to appeal the decision. Notices of appeal are filed and the file gets forwarded to the higher court. The prevailing party will request that the judge order the losing party to pay some or all of the costs and fees that the winning party has incurred.
Do I Have to Go to Court
There are options other than going to court, even after the initial filing of the lawsuit. The parties are always encouraged to settle. If they are unable to do so with the help of their attorneys, the parties may opt for mediation, where they sit down with a mediator (often a retired judge or another lawyer who has received the appropriate training) to see if an agreement can be reached.
Another option if the parties wish to avoid court is called arbitration. This is much like a trial, the parties each present their case to an arbitrator who makes a decision for one side or the other. The difference is that arbitration is less formal and often does not take as much time as a trial, therefore saving both of the parties attorney fees.
Lawsuits can be time consuming, expensive, and difficult. However, for the best chance at a favorable ruling, there must be full disclosure and cooperation by the client with his or her attorneys. At Young & Young, we have more than 40 years experience in civil litigation. We will help you through each step of your lawsuit and we strive to find just resolutions for quality cases. Contact us for a free consultation.