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The Basics of a Civil Lawsuit


If you decide you want to file a civil lawsuit against another person, you'll be taking a case to trial. The case is based on evidence, and the jury or judge will need to determine if the evidence is enough proof to hold a person responsible for the allegations made by the plaintiff.

A trial is a plaintiff's chance to argue one's case against the defendant. The goal for the plaintiff is to get a judgment against the defendant, so he or she can obtain compensation toward repairing whatever damages have been done.

After both sides present their arguments, the judge or jury decides on how much the defendant will pay the plaintiff or how the situation will be rectified if the case is won by the plaintiff. If it isn't won, the defendant will not owe anything to the plaintiff.

In most cases, civil lawsuits don't make it to trial, because settlements are made outside court. For example, if your neighbor's car backs into yours, then you may be able to settle an insurance claim outside court. If you are struck by a car and receive an acceptable offer of compensation, you may decide to take it instead of letting a judge or jury decide how much you should be owed.

During your case, you'll go through stages including choosing a jury, giving an opening statement, providing witness testimonies, making closing arguments, waiting for jury instruction, deliberation, and finally a verdict. Your attorney can help you prepare if you decide that going to trial is your best bet for a good payout.

Source: FindLaw, "Civil Cases - The Basics," accessed April 08, 2016