What is civil litigation? It's a process of taking someone to civil court. For instance, if you want to sue a person for compensation after a work accident, then you'll need to launch a civil lawsuit. You can't launch a criminal lawsuit, because that is something that needs to be done by the authorities.
With a civil lawsuit, you're able to file your complaint with a state or federal court. The complaint is then served to the defendant, or the person who had injured you or who is being held responsible for your injuries. At that point, you can request compensation or other actions to be taken by the court to give you the relief you're looking for.
With your civil lawsuit, you'll need to make sure you have evidence and information to provide to your attorney and the defendant's attorney. Known as "discovery," this is a time when you exchange information between your attorney and the defendant's attorney in order to prepare for trial. This comes before you head to trial.
Before going to trial, you have the option of working out your differences with the other party. One way to do this is by seeking a settlement arrangement. If you're seeking compensation, you could request it then and see if the other party will oblige. If so, you won't need to go to trial. If the other party denies your request but makes an acceptable offer, you can accept it and avoid trial as well. In cases where no settlement can be agreed upon, you'll need to go to trial.
Source: US Courts, "Civil Cases," accessed May. 11, 2015