A Brief Guide to Civil Cases

Brought to you by Spencer & Moore (Attorneys At Law)

In filing for a civil case, you may feel a little overwhelmed. In order to lessen some of your concerns, we've taken the time to explain some of the processes and procedures of a civil case.

Reasons for a Civil Case

A civil case is a lawsuit where one party sues another party for damages caused. The damages don't involve a particular crime someone would be arrested for, but for something like a disagreement or failure to complete a promised service.

Beginning the Civil Case and Before the Trial

The first step is for the plaintiff (the person bringing the case against another person) to hire a lawyer and have them formally file a complaint, a formal statement that names the defendant and the type of lawsuit being perused. When the complaint is filed, the court will send a summons, a document sent to request the appearance in court of either witnesses or the defendant (the person who has a claim brought against them). The defendant will in return send back their response to the charges. They may either admit they are at fault or give reasons why they possibly aren't at fault. This response is called pleadings.

Possible Reconciliation

Sometimes, before a trial can even occur, the two parties will decide to settle amicably out of court through mediation. Mediation is an additional unbiased party helping the two parties settle their differences by coming to an agreement on who owes who repayment or additional services, etc. Another way of settling out of court is through arbitration. In arbitration, an unbiased third party (called the arbitrator) will settle the differences in a way they think is fair. The decision made by the arbitrator is legally blinding.

If reconciliation does not happen, the judge presiding over the case will hold a pretrial conference in which both parties will clarify differences in their arguments. The case will then go to trial. The trial will either by heard by a jury or just by the judge.

The Trial

In the beginning of the trial, both the plaintiff and the defendant give their side of the story. It's also the plaintiff's job to have enough evidence to prove that the defendant should be held responsible for whatever they are seeking from them; this is called a preponderance of evidence. Both parties will summarize their cases and then the jury or judge will decide the verdict (who is guilty or not guilty). If the verdict is in favor of the defendant, they do not have to give or pay anything to the plaintiff and the plaintiff must cover all court costs. If the verdict is in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant must pay them or finish any services that are owed.

If plaintiff does not agree with the verdict, they may request an appeal to a higher court to have the case heard again.