A lawsuit usually is started in state or federal court. The person or company starting a lawsuit is called the plaintiff. The person or company being sued is called the defendant. Together, the plaintiff and defendant are called the parties.

One starts a lawsuit by filing a complaint with the court. The complaint identifies and explains how the defendant wronged or harmed the plaintiff, as well as the relief or compensation that the plaintiff hopes to receive from the defendant. In response, the defendant usually files an answer. The answer explains why the defendant should not be held responsible for the plaintiff’s problems. Filing the answer and completing other preliminary information that many courts require can take about 30 to 60 days.

Once a complaint and answer are filed with the court, the plaintiff and defendant engage in a process called discovery. Discovery is when the parties collect potential evidence from each other. The parties ask each other questions called interrogatories. The parties also use document requests to identify papers and other records that may have useful information. Finally, the parties take depositions to collect testimony and identify possible witnesses. A deposition requires people to answer questions under oath. All the questions and answers are recorded by a court reporter, and the entire deposition can be recorded on video tape as well. Discovery can last only several months, or in more complicated cases, it can continue for a year or more.

After evidence has been collected, the defendant, though sometimes the plaintiff, will ask the court for summary judgment. Summary judgment is granted if the court determines that the evidence is undisputed and supports only one party to the litigation. Summary judgment can be granted on all the claims in a case or only some of the claims. If summary judgment is granted on all the claims, there is no trial and the lawsuit generally ends. Asking for summary judgment and waiting to see if the court will grant it can take as long as a year, or even more.

If summary judgment is not granted on at least one claim, then the case is set for trial. Waiting for a trial date can take several months or more. The trial itself can last one day, several weeks, or even more, depending on how many claims remain in the case and how complicated they are. The plaintiff and the defendant are expected to attend every day of a trial, and any witnesses who are expected to testify must be ready to appear in court on short notice.

Lawsuits usually are not quick or easy. You should expect that it will take at least two years before a case goes to trial. Lawsuits also can be expensive. The client (you) must pay to file a lawsuit. You also have to pay a court reporter to record each deposition. Depositions can take place out of town, so there can be travel costs. Sometimes, you need to hire an expert witness. If you do end up in trial (and sometimes at stages before trial such as mediation) you may need “demonstrative” and other evidence made into visual aids for the jury or judge. This helps the fact-finder follow your story. It costs money to have these visual aids created and they can be fairly expensive depending on how many and what type of visual aids you need. These expenses are examples of the costs associated with a lawsuit.

Kelly has years of experience handling all phases of a lawsuit. Since she will handle your case directly, she knows what is going on at all times. She can answer your questions about each step and walk you through the entire process. She will prepare you so you know what to expect when you are deposed or examined at trial. You get the benefit of hands-on, efficient, cost-effective and knowledgeable lawyering combined with personal attention.

©2007 Kelly J Beard, Attorney and Counselor| 400 Galleria Parkway Suite 1500, Atlanta, Georgia 30339