Litigation is the legal process of resolving disputes and is usually undertaken through the court systems. Supervised by a judge, litigation often arises when one party denies or refutes the assertions made by the other party.
The primary purpose of litigation is for a court, either judge or jury, to render a binding legal judgment between the parties. Litigation also encompasses dispute resolution and offers alternatives to litigation, such as arbitration and mediation.
If looking to determine whether your legal matter is litigation, ask yourself: is there the potential for a lawsuit to be filed? If yes, then a legal matter qualifies as litigation. If no (for example, because the parties agree or there is no controversy), then the matter is not litigation but another area of law (such as transactional law).
Knowing the essential stages of litigation and what will be required from you and your client at each stage can help make the process easier for lawyers. Familiarizing yourself with a case's procedural requirements will help you stay organized, increase your efficiency, and better serve your client.
Before a lawsuit is filed, lawyers and their corporate clients exchange several letters, emails, and phone calls to sort things out. Demand letters, or letters of complaint as they are more often referred to, let the other side know explicitly what they are being accused of and what the remedy is.
A demand letter is sent by one party in a dispute to the other parties. It describes the overall demands of that party and requests that the other party immediately satisfy those demands.
As the initial demand letter is mailed, the opposing side may respond by offering to do or pay less than requested, responding with their demands, or choosing to do nothing. While it's perfectly acceptable for the parties to explore a settlement at this stage, they are not required to and are not required to agree.
Plaintiffs have the option to file a lawsuit. In this scenario, the plaintiff will have to go to the plaintiff's attorney and instruct them to file a lawsuit. Once they send the complaint to the defendant, the parties go through "discovery." Discovery is the process in which both parties request evidence from each other.
If the initial negotiations between yourself and another individual or company break down, the next step is to file a lawsuit. Before doing so, ensure that both you and your adversary are represented by attorneys, as this will significantly increase your chance of success. Filing and responding to a lawsuit is complex, and even tiny mistakes can drastically affect cases. For example, some personal injury claims have a statute of limitations as short as one year. Failure to properly file suit within that time will result in a permanent bar to recovery. So it is crucial that you involve a lawyer from the very beginning.
Technology has a great option to help in discovery. It is so tedious. Prepare for the tedious work involved in providing evidence, deposing witnesses, and working on requests. These parties will be working hard on preparation.
Motions. Trial. Appeal.
After discovery, the next step is to review the information gathered in the finding, at which point the defendant will move for summary judgment. The defendant argues that even if the plaintiff's factual contentions are true, the law does not recognize the situation as one in which the defendant will be held responsible.
If the judge agrees, the case is over, and the plaintiff loses. If the judge denies the motion, the patient will proceed to trial.
Finally, after what can amount to years of pre-trial litigation, the merits of the case will be heard by the judge or a jury. Witnesses will be called to testify, evidentiary exhibits will be submitted, and the attorneys for both sides will present the argument as to why their clients deserve to win.