Understanding the Civil Lawsuit Process - The S.E. Farris Law Firm
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Understanding the Civil Lawsuit Process

Understanding the Civil Lawsuit Process

Civil lawsuits are different from criminal cases.  While they may look similar in some respects, the rules and standards are different. These disputes between people or businesses are within the parties’ control to settle until a court enters a verdict. Because of the uncertainty in any court proceeding most civil lawsuits are settled before they ever go to trial, and settlements can occur at any point before or even during trial.

There are four main steps in a civil lawsuit:

  • Pleadings – A lawsuit starts with the filing of a petition or complaint, depending on the court rules. The defendant is then given an opportunity to respond to the law suit and usually denies liability. Occasionally the plaintiff files a reply to the defendants answer or countersuit. Once the pleadings stage is set, the process moves on to discovery.


  • Discovery – During the discovery, both parties gather information relevant to the case from each other and third-party sources. This includes written questions, requests for documents and admissions, and depositions to preserve the testimony of witnesses and parties. Much of the time in modern litigation is spent in discovery and legal battles over the scope of this process. Trial – At trial, both sides present their evidence, witnesses, and argue their case before the court. In trial, the only truth that matters is what the parties can prove under the rules of evidence. Once both sides have presented their case, the jury deliberates and returns with a verdict. After a verdict is rendered, either party may challenge a jury’s verdict. There are two ways to challenge a verdict in court, by a motion for judgement notwithstanding the verdict, which asks the court to disregard the jury’s verdict and enter a different decision, or a motion for a new trial, which asks the court to disregard the jury’s verdict and order a new trial. The winning party often requests that the court order the losing party to pay the winning party’s court costs. If the losing party unsuccessfully challenges the verdict, they can ask that a higher court review the matter—the appeals process.


  • Appeal – Following a trial, the losing party can file an appeal. The court of appeals or even the supreme court can review the proceedings. The appellate court may reverse the decision of the trial court or order the trial court to conduct a new trial. Not all errors of the trial court can be reversed, but most state court cases are subject to review by the appellate court regardless.


If you have been hurt in an accident and want to know what your best options are, contact The S.E. Farris Law Firm to schedule a free strategy session by calling 314-A-LAWYER (314-252-9937) or visit today.


As a Board Certified graduate of the Trial Lawyers College, Spencer Farris prepares every case as though it will go to trial, while working hard to get you the settlement you deserve. If your case does go to trial, Spencer has the experience to get you the compensation you deserve, while making your involvement as stress free as possible.

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