There are countless television shows and movies depicting lawyers and courtroom proceedings. Still, they don’t quite go behind the scenes to properly show the effort it takes (e.g., paperwork, investigations, information gathering, etc.) to bring a lawsuit to life.
If you are curious about how a lawsuit works, here’s a bit of insight into the life of a lawsuit.
Step 1 – Complaint
Once you have secured an attorney, they will create a document called a complaint.
A complaint names all parties involved in the lawsuit, describes the facts of the case, and provides laws and legal history to back your claim against the defendant. It also provides information on what you, the plaintiff, seeks, including money, custody of children, and/or other actions.
Step 2 – Discovery
The discovery process involves obtaining documents and evidence from all parties involved in the lawsuit. Private investigators may sometimes be used to collect evidence pertinent to the case.
Step 3 – Pre-trial Motions and Settlement Discussion
You can take many steps before a lawsuit goes to trial. Some of these steps might even prevent the necessity of a trial altogether.
These pre-trial motions can include:
- Motion to Dismiss: A request asking the judge to have the case dismissed.
- Motion for Judgment: A request asking the judge to rule on a case before it is sent to a jury.
- Motion for Summary Judgment: A lawyer can file this motion if neither party disputes the facts of the case. This request asks the judge to review the facts of the case, apply the law, and make a ruling.
- Offer of Settlement: A compromise that tries to appease both parties to avoid a trial.
Step 4 – Trial Preparation
If you complete all the preliminary processes and neither side submitted a settlement or judgments, then a trial date can be set.
There can either be a bench trial, which is heard only by the judge, or a jury trial.
Step 5 – Jury Selection
If the trial goes before a jury, the next step is selecting jury members, who attorneys choose from a list of registered voters in your county or area. Then, there is a screening process where attorneys ask potential jurors questions in an attempt to select jurors that may support their case.
Step 6 – Trial and Judgment
This part of the lawsuit occurs when the attorneys present their cases to the judge and/or jury. Opening statements, witness questioning, closing statements, and jury deliberation are all conducted during the trial portion. Once the attorneys have given their closing statements, the judge or jury will decide the trial’s outcome.
Step 7 – Appeals
Even after judgment has been made, the loser of the trial may request to have the case retried through an appeal. An appeal brings the case before a higher court to get a prior judgment reversed. The appeal could be for more money, less jail/prison time, a complete reversal of a decision, child custody, or any other matter.
Lawsuits are fascinating and have many moving parts. There is great interest in courtroom proceedings and the dramatics that can occur there. However, there can also be many twists, turns, and complications that can make court proceedings complex and lengthy.
If you or a loved one require an experienced attorney’s assistance, please contact Siniard, Timberlake & League. We can help.