A civil lawsuit is when someone tries to hold someone else liable for wrongful or illegal acts.
Those acts must have caused injury and damage to the person bringing the case. Also, the victim must bring the civil case within a set amount of time. If these steps and others are followed, the plaintiff may obtain financial compensation and other relief.
The members of our law firm are skilled in state and federal law. We explain all facets of a civil lawsuit to you and review what exactly a civil case could mean to you and your family.
What are the Main Parts of Civil Lawsuits?
If you file your civil case in state or federal court, the civil action will likely follow the same path.
That’s because civil courts in general have the same structure and core elements, which we will now review in turn:
- Pre-Trial: Before a civil lawsuit even gets to the civil trial phases, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Primarily, either the plaintiff or his or her counsel need to investigate the incident, check if the plaintiff’s claims are legally valid, and draft and file a case. Here also, one party may move for summary judgment and push settlement negotiations on the losing party to wrap up the case before it gets to a judge or jury.
- Trial: Most civil lawsuits don’t get to this point. However, the trial is probably the most well-known stage of a civil case. In this part of the civil lawsuit, the plaintiff may use opening and closing arguments, witness exposure, and more to make a case. Of course, your civil trial will be decided by a judge or jury. You can appeal to the appellate court or supreme court if you lose if there is not some other alternative dispute resolution system.
- Post-Trial: Unless the plaintiff files an appeal, this stage of the civil case either ends in recovery or loss. You still may be able to file civil cases against other parties in the appropriate court.
Both the plaintiff and the defendant have legal responsibility in each of these phases of a civil action within the legal system. You will not win your civil trial or civil suit (in state or federal courts) if you don’t know the basics of tort claims.
This overview is just the start. There will be modifications depending upon the type of suit like a contract dispute, equitable claim or equitable claims of child custody, personal injury, landlord-tenant claims, and more.
How are Civil Cases different than Criminal Cases?
A criminal case or criminal lawsuit is far different than civil cases. For one thing, you cannot lose your liberty in a civil case. Only a criminal case forces the prospect of a life in jail as a final resolution.
A criminal case varies from a civil suit in a more procedural way as well regarding the burden of proof. It is higher in criminal court. You must convince a judge or jury using the evidence that the other party or defendant’s guilt is beyond a reasonable doubt.
In civil court, you must merely show using the evidence that the defendant caused personal injury via a wrongful act beyond a preponderance of the evidence. This is a decidedly lower bar no matter if you are in state court or federal court.
There are other variations as you go in and out of civil and criminal law, but these are some of the most fundamental. Speak to an attorney about your trial today.
We can handle most civil cases that caused harm to the plaintiff. Our team has expertly maneuvered through all stages of a jury trial lawsuit using new evidence, the law, and other skills.
What Happens in Each Phase of the Case?
In a previous section, we reviewed the main parts of any civil suit for a plaintiff and a defendant. Now, we want to focus on what exactly you should hone in on to prosecute your claim successfully against the defendant. This will help you make your case to the jury or judge.
First, in the pre-trial point, you need to find every fact that supports each of your claims including 1) what exactly the defendant did wrong and 2) how did that affect you. This involves a lot of introspection and physical fact-finding.
Second, when you are on trial, your point is to paint your story to the jury or judge. This takes practice and sound legal advocacy. Vetting your attorney ahead of time to make sure they can do this well will pay dividends.
Third, and finally, after you have already gone through a trial, you need to work diligently to obtain your verdict or press for settlement. Prompt efforts will help the process resolve itself in a more expeditious fashion.
Now that we have analyzed what you should be working on during the case, let’s briefly examine when you can file in the first place.
When You Can File a Case in Court.
It may be helpful to briefly review at a high level when you can file any claims against people in civil court. Remember, it is only for the government to go to prison time and that is in criminal lawsuits.
Broadly speaking, you can sue someone when their 1) harmful or illegal conduct 2) causes 3) your injuries and damages and 4) you nor no other third party or factor is to blame.
States differ over much contributory negligence should bar a claim entirely, but this is a general framework for every civil cause of action.
Here are some common scenarios that regularly lead to a case civilly:
- Head-on car crash
- Dog attack
- Defective products especially consumer and healthcare
- Workplace slip, trip, or fall
- Nursing home abuse
- Big rig truck collision
What Compensation and other Relief is Available in Civil Court?
A plaintiff can only obtain certain things from a defendant via court order from a judge after a successful case. Relief in civil litigation is that way. With that being said, here are a few common areas of compensation for a plaintiff and parties related to it.
- Expenses: Plaintiffs normally get reimbursement for their property, medical, income, and other out-of-pocket losses from the ordeal.
- Intangible: Plaintiffs in civil cases may seek recovery in the complaint for pain, suffering, disability, disfigurement, lost quality of life, and other non-economic effects.
- Wrongful Death: If the accident resulted in the loss of life, then the decedent’s loved ones and family can bring a cause of action for this specific affront in the complaint.
- Punitive: A judge may award a plaintiff punitive damages when a defendant acts so recklessly that punishment is warranted especially to deter similar acts in the future.
Note, that these will normally be listed out by the plaintiff within the complaint.
How Long Do I Have to File a Case in Civil Court?
Most states do not give you unlimited time to file your civil suit in court. This is equally true of appeals to the appellate court or even Supreme Court.
No, in all instances you are time-barred by statutes of limitations. These are literally just laws that prohibit you from filing a personal injury or other action in state court or federal if the party files too late.
In that case, it does not matter if the plaintiff has the law, evidence, jury, or settlement options on its side.
With the best lawyer or attorney in the world, you still will be prevented from filing a complaint about a jury trial or bench court case. The defendant will not be held liable for any harm the person complained of in the lawsuit.
Also, states typically give you shorter or longer periods depending upon the type of action. For instance, you may only get one year to bring a wrongful death action, but you could two for a personal injury case, and many more for a breach of contract case in court.
Speak with your lawyer about how to draft the trial complaint about a jury, what court to file in and by when, getting all documents filed, paying the filing fee, and everything else you need.
Steps You Can Take to Help Yourself in Civil Lawsuits.
No matter the kind of trial or parties involved, every person can steps to help their attorney. This will assist them as they prepare the complaint, negotiate with the defendant, and even prove the defendant wrong in court.
How exactly can a plaintiff or related person do that? Take a look at these things you should do:
- Go see a doctor right after the events.
- Avoid talking to the defendant or their related parties without an attorney.
- Obtain legal counsel.
- Start to organize your employment, healthcare, and other files.
- Keep your receipts and itemize the costs from events.
- Write down all of your memories from the incident.
Every plaintiff should do these things and more as they attempt to face off with the defendant and other parties in court and in front of a judge.
Talk with a Helpful and Experienced Lawyer
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can help parties after another person harmed them in car crash, hospital mishap, breach of contract, or any other type of common accident. Our team is full of experts in the field of civil litigation and has tried many cases.
We can explain all phases and issues within your case, starting with the complaint, leading to jury selection, and ending with a settlement, among other topics.
Plus, our team works on contingency so you can rest assured that our services are free if we don’t win for you.
Contact us today to find out what relief and recovery could be available to you by calling (888) 424-5757.