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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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