What Happens in Litigation?
Litigation is the legal process of taking a case to trial. Litigation’s goal is to get the court to decide in your favor, either through a judge’s order or a jury’s verdict. Although all cases are unique, the steps that go into litigation tend to follow the same order.
The usual stages of litigation include:
- Investigation: Before advancing a case to litigation, an investigation should be conducted to better understand the details of the case and whether it has the merits to continue.
- Pleadings: To begin litigation, pleadings will be entered by both sides. The plaintiff will file an official complaint that describes what happened and what they want to do to resolve it. The defense will give an official reply to counter those arguments and possibly give their own suggested resolution.
- Discovery: The discovery process includes depositions, witness interviews, and motions to look for more evidence that either side can or will use. It is often the most extensive part of a case that goes to litigation.
- Pretrial negotiations: Depending on what evidence is discovered, the defense might try to halt litigation to reach a pretrial negotiation that gives the plaintiff a fair settlement or agreement.
- Trial: If no settlement is reached, then the trial will commence on the set date. A trial can include choosing a jury, opening statements, arguments, evidence presentation, closing arguments, and, lasting, a verdict from a judge or jury.
- Judgment: The final result of the trial will include a judgment. If it is in the plaintiff’s favor, the judgment will describe how much compensation the defendant must pay, or what the defense must do to satisfy the plaintiff’s demands.
- Appeal: Many litigated case results can be appealed to a higher court if either side believes the decision was reached erroneously, such as due to a legal error or wrongly used courtroom procedure.