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What is the Litigation Process?

Pre-Litigation and the Filing of the Lawsuit

When beginning a lawsuit, it is important to gather evidence of the accident and the parties involved.

For instance, in a car accident, the police report, contact information for the at-fault party or witnesses, insurance information, and photographs of the vehicles and the scene where the accident occurred are all essential to the attorney’s ability to evaluate the case and provide assistance. The attorney may then follow up on information relating to the accident.

Once the initial interview and sufficient evidence have been gathered, the attorney will file a complaint.

It is important to start the interview process early so that the complaint may be filed before the statute of limitations runs out. The statute of limitations is a due date by which a lawsuit may be initiated after the incident occurs. The complaint is the beginning step in the formal litigation process.

Discovery Process

After the complaint has been filed, a series of deadlines by which additional paperwork must be filed.

It will be important to respond quickly to your attorney so that these deadlines are met and your case can move forward smoothly. Discovery includes a formal process of asking and answering questions for the purpose of fact-finding on both sides of the dispute.[1] These questions will come in the form of admitting to certain facts, providing requested documents, and taking depositions.

Motions, Mediation, and the Trial

Motions may come in several forms, such as a motion for summary judgment.[2]

These motions may expedite the judgment of your case rather than having to wait for trial.

Mediation and settlement negotiations are another opportunity for the parties to resolve the dispute before going to trial.

These discussions alleviate some of the risks of trial. Mediation and negotiations can often allow for each party to walk away from the case, satisfied with the resolution.

The length of a jury trial differs on a case-by-case basis.

This process includes jury selection, opening statements, witness testimony, the introduction of evidence, closing arguments, and jury deliberation. When the jury has reached a unanimous decision, the judge will then return the verdict.

Judgment and Appeal

If either party is unsatisfied with the proceeding or outcome of the trial, they have the opportunity to appeal the case.

This process requires a detailed brief of the case and oral arguments from both sides. An appeal may take one to two years from the date it is filed before the appellate court makes a decision. If the appeal does not uphold the verdict, a new trial may be scheduled.

[1] Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b) [2] Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a)

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