Civil Cases

All you need to know in one place


A plaintiff is a person who brings a case against another in a court of law.

Some examples are:

The type of lawsuit that a plaintiff files varies greatly depending on the wrongdoing that took place. Some of the most common types of civil disputes heard in court include:

  • Motor Vehicle Accident
  • Property Damage
  • Personal Injury


A defendant is a person accused of a crime in criminal prosecution or a person or entity against whom some type of civil relief is being sought in a civil case.


There are two types of action in which a person or entity may finds himself a defendant: criminal and civil. While both of these consist of a person being accused of something, the court process and penalties vary. Criminal charges are typically much more serious than civil charges, as they may include imprisonment.


When an individual seeks to initiate a civil lawsuit, the first step is to file a complaint The complaint outlines the plaintiff’s allegations against the defendant, and states the damages that they are asking the court to grant them.


A legal document that notifies a defendant that a lawsuit has been filed against him.


According to the law, when an individual files a complaint initiating a lawsuit against another party, he is legally required to inform that party that he has done so. The summons provides the defendant with the identity of the court in which the lawsuit has been filed, identifies all of the parties involved in the lawsuit, and bears the signature and official seal of the court clerk. The summons is served with the complaint on the defendant, at which point the lawsuit officially begins.


A formal written statement of a party’s claims defense in a court action.


  • Give notice of a legal action, or defense
  • Spell out the facts of the case
  • Identify the issues that need to be resolved
  • Pretrial Conference

    An informal conference held at court during which the parties, their attorneys, and the judges spell out the issues of the case. Often the judge encourages the parties to work toward a settlement in a civil lawsuit.


    The mediating by a neutral third party, between two or more parties to a dispute, in order to reach an agreement.


    The hearing and settling of a dispute by a third party agreed to by them


    The process of arbitration is overseen by a professional arbitrator, who facilitates communication between two sides of a dispute


    An examination of the facts at issue in a legal matter before a judicial tribunal or court of law.

    Preponderance of Evidence

    Evidence that persuades a judge or jury to lean to one side as opposed to the other, during the course of litigation.

    John files a lawsuit against Mary, claiming she damaged his property while renting his condominium. John provides the court with pictures taken before Mary moved in, and after she moved out, to prove that the damages occurred while she was in possession of the property. Mary provides witness testimony to back up her claim that the damage existed when she moved into the condo. Mary does not have photos or other documentation showing the condition of the condo prior to moving in.

    By showing the court the condition of the condo at the time it was rented to Mary, and the condition after she moved out, John has proven by a preponderance of evidence that Mary caused, or was responsible for, the damages. John has met his burden of proof, and will likely collect from Mary.


    An order made by a trial judge instructing the jury to return a specific verdict.

    A verdict is most often used in civil jury trials when a judge determines that the plaintiff does not have enough evidence to warrant a victory. In criminal suits, a judge can order a directed verdict if he believes that the prosecutor has failed to present solid proof of the defendant's guilt.


    A request made to a higher court asking for a reversal of a decision made by a lower court.

    At the trial, both parties present their case by calling witnesses and presenting evidence. During the appeal, none of this takes place. The appellate court reviews the facts that were presented in trial court, as well as the parties’ appellate briefs. Additionally, the appellate court often allows each party a specified amount of time in which they can verbally argue their case, based on the perceived error.