Litigation happens when a lawsuit is filed. It is the process of taking legal action to be resolved by the law. It is the final method for resolving controversies or disputes between and among persons and organizations, when a matter will not settle informally.
In litigation, a case also known as a lawsuit, is brought before a court of law with jurisdiction to hear a cayour own insurance company, or to any attorneys or representatives hired by your own insurance companyse between the parties involved in a dispute. Litigation begins the moment someone decides to formally enforce or defend his or her legal rights in Court. In some cases, this happens the moment a party hires an attorney to represent their interests.
Most attorneys engage in a variety of “pre-suit” litigation activities. These can include many things, from writing a letter on a client’s behalf called a demand letter, to demand that a party compensate a victim for economic or physical injury, to filing a Notice of Eviction with a local court. Pre-suit litigation is subject matter specific and varies depending on the circumstances surrounding a particular case. However, there are several steps in litigation that occur in nearly every case.
Litigation is meaningless without information about the harm that occurred. Attorneys, and parties, often conduct extensive independent investigations into the facts and potential outcomes of a particular case prior to filing suit. A thorough pre-suit investigation focuses the issues in the case and satisfies the wronged party and his attorney that the harm was indeed caused by the potential defendant and that the law provides for a remedy.
Parties should always try to resolve their disputes. That includes negotiations between the parties designed to avoid the cost and inconvenience of a formal lawsuit. The demand letter sent to the party who allegedly caused the harm or damages is designed to convince the party that the wronged party, the plaintiff, has a basis for the claim and solid evidence and documentation of the money value of the harm caused, this gives the defendant the opportunity to settle prior to expending large amounts of time and money in litigation.
Sometimes there is also mediation or arbitration: commonly referred to as “Alternative Dispute Resolution” or “ADR”. Again, this is hopefully a cost-saving move. Arbitration and mediation are largely informal processes. Each side presents their case to an independent attorney or panel of attorneys. The mediator then attempts to negotiate a settlement between the two sides. Arbitration is different as the arbitrator will decide the value of a case. Arbitration and mediation occur during litigation, as well.
If all else fails, a lawsuit is filed. A lawsuit involves a plaintiff filing a formal Complaint with the appropriate court, and then serving a copy upon a defendant to provide them notice of the impending court case. The defendant then files an Answer within a prescribed amount of time, and the lawsuit commences.
The lawsuit itself has three steps in itself, firstly being discovery. During the discovery period, attorneys trade written discovery requests such as interrogatories (written questions), requests to produce documents and evidence, and requests for admission, which are requests that the opposing party admit certain facts of the case. Discovery often includes depositions, where attorneys formally ask questions of the parties and sometimes of third party witnesses. A deposition is a formal question and answer session that is conducted under oath and transcribed, which means copied word for word, by a court reporter for later use by both parties.
The final stage in the litigation process is the trial. Trials happen in 1% of cases. Once discovery has closed, all pre-trial motions have been heard and ADR is no longer desired, a case moves towards trial. The vast majority of litigation never reaches the trial stage, and with good reason. Trials are expensive and uncertain propositions and are something of a gamble for both parties. A trial is the formal presentation of a case to a trier of fact, which is usually a jury. On occasion, attorneys will agree to a bench trial, which means that the presiding judge will make the ultimate decision regarding liability and damages.
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