7 Steps in a Civil Case

The damage of traumatic events like car accidents and medical malpractice cases often goes beyond injuries and financial loss. Not knowing what to do or what will happen next, you may feel stressed, anxious, and lost.

Gould Injury Law, known as “The Fast Firm,” offers real solutions when your world seems out of control. Our experienced legal team can bring you fast relief.

We help by informing potential clients what they can expect from a non-criminal legal dispute between two or more parties, also known as a civil case. Civil lawsuits help accident victims recover money for accident losses. The stages of a civil case generally follow 7 general stages.

Step 1: Seek Legal Counsel

Consulting an attorney is one of the most critical stages of a civil case. Yet, some skip it.

Some people may feel that they can handle matters alone. Others think that they cannot afford a fast and aggressive law firm like Gould Injury Law.

Civil cases are too important to make decisions you will later regret. Your attorney can determine whether you have grounds for a civil lawsuit or claim and can also tell you how much your case is worth if you win.

At our law firm, our lawyers work fast to secure your claim. You will not need to pay money upfront since we charge for our services only when we get you your compensation.

Professional help is worth it to present a strong case during negotiations and beyond, even in civil court if necessary. At Gould Injury Law, your initial consultation is free. You can schedule yours by calling (888) WIN-FAST.

Step 2: File a Complaint

In tort claims, an injured party files against the person who caused them harm. This either begins with a complaint being filed in court or a claim being filed with the appropriate insurance company.

The person filing a complaint against another party is the plaintiff. The other party, the one liable for providing compensation, either personally or by means of insurance coverage, is the defendant.

The plaintiff must provide evidence that the defendant failed to carry out a legal duty, such as in these examples of civil case types:

  • Contract claims: The breach of a written or verbal obligation between both parties
  • Violations of constitutional rights: The deprivation of “rights, privileges, or immunities” afforded by the Constitution of the United States
  • Personal injury: Injury to someone’s person, emotions, or reputation

The plaintiff files a court claim based on monetary loss or personal injury resulting from the liable party’s failure to uphold their duty. You could seek financial compensation or equitable claims. In a contract dispute, the court may issue a declaratory judgment specifying the rights and obligations of each party to a contract.

Filing a complaint is the first step towards gaining financial compensation, which could include:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • The replacement value of destroyed property
  • The repair costs of damaged property
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Monetary awards for non-economic losses

An equitable claim is a legal remedy requiring the defendant to do (or stop doing) something. For instance, landlord-tenant claims could require the property owner to fix hazardous conditions or release the renter from the contract early.

The lawsuit and trial process

The plaintiff must formally serve a summons and a copy of the complaint to the defendant. A summons explains that the person is being sued and that a court will determine the outcome of the civil trial.

The complaint explains how the defendant harmed the plaintiff. A legal summons must have the following characteristics:

  • Clerk signature
  • Court seal
  • Identification of the parties and court
  • Name and address of the plaintiff’s attorney (if applicable)
  • The time in which the defendant has to respond and defend the claim
  • Notification that failure to appear will result in a default adverse judgment

The document will also include notification that failure to appear results in a default adverse judgment. You should receive a pleading from the defendant stating his or her side of the dispute.

If the plaintiff ignores the complaint or responds too late, he or she forfeits the right to contest the charges. The court may skip the trial stage and order the defendant to pay corresponding damages.

Mistakes to avoid

Where did your accident occur? The answer can affect how you file your claim. You must handle your civil litigation in the appropriate court, depending on the trial type and location.

Does figuring out whom to sue seem simple? Determining liability is a complex issue. You could waste valuable time, money, and resources if you sue the wrong person.

Let’s consider some examples:

  • Suppose you are hit by a car while crossing the road. You might assume you should always sue the driver. Yet, what if the person driving wasn’t the car’s owner? What if road conditions contributed to the driver’s lack of visibility?
  • You slip and fall on spilled ice at a restaurant. This restaurant is part of a chain. Should you sue the store manager, the owner, or the franchise?
  • Construction workers accidentally damage your garage and the vehicle inside. Should you sue the local government, a private company, or the employees?

If your legal theories are invalid, the defendant’s attorneys might take action:

  • Motion to dismiss: An action requesting the judge to dismiss the case, possibly based on new evidence or disputes about the plaintiff’s facts
  • Counterclaim: The defendant files a new lawsuit to counter claim damages from the party who filed the original complaint

Who should you sue, and in which court? How do you respond to a motion or a counterclaim?

We can answer questions like these during your free case review at our law firm. There’s no obligation to hire us. Our goal is to help you to gather the necessary information to make a sound decision.

Step 3: Prepare Your Civil Lawsuit

Discovery, a phase not commonly associated with your standard insurance claim, is the process of preparing for a civil trial. This pre-trial stage reveals to both parties what evidence will be presented in court. Then, the plaintiff and defendant can answer and dispute the evidence.

During the discovery phase, the parties filing might conduct depositions with the injured person or witness. A deposition is a statement given under oath.

When you’ve hired us, our fast and thorough attorneys can interview witnesses out-of-court, usually recording the interaction and producing a written transcript with the help of a deposition court reporter.

Each party must present evidence, such as the identity of witnesses and documentation related to the case, before the end of the discovery stage.

Step 4: Settle Differences

Anytime after the filing of the complaint, the involved parties can attempt to settle the dispute out of court, without a trial. Civil courts recommend mediation, arbitration, and other alternative means of resolution.

If successful, this step could be your last of this legal process. The discovery period would come to a close as both parties accept the binding decision. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, the court will assign a date for the trial.

The Constitution allows the plaintiff or defendant to request a jury trial. Otherwise, a judge will hear the civil case in court.

Step 5: Go to Trial

The court may accept or dismiss evidence based on state and federal rules. Your civil trial will begin with an opening statement to the judge and jury from the plaintiff and defendant or their legal representatives.

A court reporter records what happens in civil courts. He or she would document the evidence presented and the testimony of any witnesses. Those who take the stand can be cross-examined by the opposing counsel.

Finally, both attorneys give their closing statements.

Step 6: Receive Your Verdict

In jury trials, the jury members deliberate after hearing all the evidence. The judge then issues the verdict depending on their decision.

Sometimes, the plaintiff or the defendant is unhappy with the results. In certain cases, that party may be eligible for a new trial.

Step 7: Appeal Decisions in Appellate Court

To appeal means to contest the final verdict of a judge or jury. These claims are filed in a lower court first, though they may end up in the Supreme Court in rare instances.

An attorney would follow the steps above when filing an appeal in an appellate court. He or she would look for new witnesses or evidence to convince a judge that another court trial is necessary.

The court may dismiss an appeal. If granted, the plaintiff must share the new evidence during discovery.

In each state, deadlines apply to appeals. Our aggressive lawyers work fast to qualify our clients for civil cases in appellate court.

Each Step Counts in Civil Cases

Have you ever seen someone tip the first domino in a row? All the dominoes fall down fast as one topples the other.

You can apply this analogy to facing a judge and jury in court. The decisions you make in the preliminary stages will affect your outcome.

If you filed a strong claim and relied on solid legal representation, a favorable outcome in court is more likely. Yet, if your claim is lacking in one way or another, the relief sought through the trial could be fleeting.

At Gould Injury Law, we want the dominoes to fall in your favor – fast. Our legal team has years of experience presenting evidence to the judge and jury. We can also use the appeals process to contest an unfair court decision fast and efficiently.

You will not need any money to start your civil case since you pay when you win. Call (888) WIN-FAST to schedule your free consultation. We welcome your call any time of day or night.