Civil Law–Civil law seeks to resolve non-criminal disputes such as disagreements over the meaning of contracts, property ownership, and damages for personal and property damage. A civil court is a place where people can solve their problems with people peacefully. The function of civil law is to provide a legal remedy to solve problems. Sometimes civil law is based on a state or federal statute; at other times civil law is based on a ruling by the court.
Types of Civil Cases
Civil law covers a wide spectrum of topics. Some of these topics are:
Civil lawsuits arise out of disputes between people, businesses, or other entities, including government entities. Civil lawsuits generally proceed through distinct steps: pleadings, discovery, trial, and possibly an appeal.
Statistics show that most cases are resolved before reaching trial. Arbitration or mediation are alternatives to a trial and are worth considering.
Each party in a lawsuit files a initial document known as a “complaint.” The complaint describes what the defendant did (or failed to do) that caused harm to the plaintiff and the legal basis for holding the defendant responsible for that harm.
The defendant(s) is/are given a specific amount of time to file an answer to the complaint. If you have been served with a complaint know that you have a very limited time to file a response and you should contact legal counsel immediately. The answer provides the defendant’s side of the dispute. Research of the law, document review and organization, and witness interviews help clients and their lawyers assess the merits of claims and defenses. Discovery is usually the longest part of the case. It begins soon after a lawsuit is filed and often does not stop until shortly before trial. During discovery, the parties ask each other and third parties for information about the facts and issues of the case. Information is gathered formally through written questions (known as “interrogatories”), requests for copies of documents, and requests for admission (which ask a party to admit or deny statements of fact). Another key method of obtaining information is to conduct depositions, in which witnesses are questioned under oath by the parties’ attorneys and the witnesses’ answers are recorded by a court reporter. Depositions are used to learn more about the facts of a case and about what the different witnesses contend happened. Depositions also may be used at trial to show inconsistencies in a witness’s story or to question the witness’s credibility. The recorded testimony from a deposition sometimes may also be used at trial in place of a witness who is not able to attend the trial in person.
Trial dates are set by the court. Timing and scheduling differ between state and federal courts. Some trials, known as “bench trials,” do not involve a jury and are decided by the judge alone. Other trials are jury trials. In a jury trial, both parties question potential jurors during a selection process known as “voir dire.” Once the trial begins, each party presents its outline of the case in an opening statement. Then, the parties present evidence. Once all the evidence has been presented, the parties give their closing arguments. After closing arguments, the court instructs the jury on the law to be applied to the evidence. The jury then deliberates and reaches a decision or verdict.
Whether filing a civil lawsuit or responding to a civil lawsuit we can help.
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