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The 4 Steps Of A Civil Lawsuit


The United States law is extremely complicated. Not only do you have federal, state, and local laws interacting with each other, and not only do these laws become longer and more complex every year, but you also have thousands of previous cases that can establish precedent on your case. Filing a lawsuit can be a long, complicated, and expensive process, and you absolutely need to have a lawyer helping you for anything bigger than a small-claims suit.

You should also understand what you’re getting into, because knowing how a lawsuit proceeds will help you know where you are and what needs to happen next. A lawsuit can go through a lot of stages and move back and forth, but the overall structure looks like this:

File The Complaint

The first thing that happens in any civil lawsuit is the plaintiff files an official complaint. This complaint lays out what the defendant did to harm the plaintiff, why this harm calls for legal compensation, and why the local court has jurisdiction over the lawsuit. The defendant will then file an answer that explains why the plaintiff is wrong about the events, the causes, or the legal basis. Defendants can also file a counterclaim that says the plaintiff owes them compensation instead and turn the lawsuit into a two-way court battle.

Begin The Discovery

After the lawsuit becomes official, both sides have to spend time building up a case by collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses in official depositions. Each side also has an obligation to share their information with each other so everyone has a chance to respond to new evidence with evidence and arguments of their own. Cases often settle during the discovery period because one side often finds enough evidence to prove their arguments or because continuing to trial is expensive for both sides.

Go To Trial

The trial is the big centerpiece of the lawsuit, although most suits never make it this far. During the trial, both sides will present their evidence, witnesses, and arguments for a jury to decide. In a civil case the jury will then decide who’s at fault and how much they should pay based on how much they can pay, how much fault is theirs, and how much the damages are worth. Going to trial can be risky because an obvious case would have settled earlier and juries can be very unpredictable.

Appeal The Judgement

If a case goes to trial and gets a judgment, the loser of the case has a right to appeal to a higher court and ask them to overturn the result. The reason for the appeal usually has to be something technical or legal about the trial, like a jury member was obviously biased or the other side made a filing mistake. Not every appellate court will hear every appeal, but the process can add months to a lawsuit under the best circumstances.

Of course, your goal when considering a lawsuit should be to avoid reaching step one. If you can reach a compromise with the person, corporation, or insurance company that needs to compensate you, you can avoid a lot of expenses. Even after you file, it’s usually best to settle before going to trial. Still, you should also be willing and able to go to trial if that’s what it takes to get the compensation you deserve. That’s what Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, and Walsh can offer, so contact us if you’re in southeast Florida and you’ve suffered a personal injury.

Daniel Murphy's passionate belief in upholding the Florida justice system by defending the rights of the public against corporate interests, has lead him to become one of Florida's most effective young attorneys. Daniel Murphy carries his enthusiasm for fighting for the rights of the injured outside the courtroom by staying involved in legal and community organizations.

The 4 Steps Of A Civil Lawsuit

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh




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