So You Want to Go to Court?

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Thinking about Pursuing a Case?

Our firm knows the trials and long process it takes to pursue a case from start to finish. For all of our new clients, it is imperative that you know the basic trial process and key vocabulary terms that will come in handy later. (Trust us, you'll be glad you now know!}
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Do you know your basic 'law terms' ?

We want you to understand every part of what will be going on throughout your upcoming trial. However, how will you know what's happening if you don't understand half of the political 'mumbo-jumbo' that tends to be formally used. In order to help with this problem, we have prepared a short vocabulary list, if you will, which should cover the majority of any new terms you may come across.

  • Plaintiff: This is a fancy word for a person or party formally filing the lawsuit. (in case you sought us out for this stuff, more than likely this is you!)
  • Defendant: If you have seen any criminal shows or even mock trials, you should know that this is the individual or group that is being sued or charged with a crime. (aka. the criminal in the episode...)
  • Complaint: Otherwise known as a petition, this is the formal notice in court that a lawsuit is being brought. (It generally has the basics attached, such as who is involved in the case, why is it being brought out, what is the aim of the court, etc.)
  • Summons: A summons is a notice directing someone to appear in court to answer a complaint or a charge. (yes, this is similar to a jury summons, and I'm sure that we have all heard people complaining about those before...)
  • Pleadings: This is complaint and the answer combined in a civil case. (more simply put: complaint by plaintiff + answer of defendant + any additional stuff = court pleading)
  • Pretrial conference: This is a meeting between the judge and the lawyers (read, us... if you are our clients at least; if not, well that's okay too...) where anything needed to be presented to the jurors get presented, witnesses and evidence are reviewed, timetable for everything gets set up, and the settlement of the case is potentially discussed. (As you probably have assumed, this is the 'pre-everything' part; aren't you glad you're not the one dealing with all the paperwork?)
  • Mediation: A situation where a separate third party helps the plaintiff and defendant reach an agreement about the case (yes, the mediator(s) help two groups reach a compromise, and yes, it is used all fancy-like in court like this.)
  • Arbitration: This is a separate situation where the aforementioned third party listens to plaintiff--look you know what this means now! Aren't you so proud?--and defendant, reviews the case, and makes a final decision that is ultimately binding for both sides of the dispute.
  • Trial: Its okay, if you are some passing joe looking at our awesome flyer and have still gotten this far without a clue, we applaud you and won't judge you! (much...) Anyway, the proper definition of a trial is simply a hearing in a court case where a process of judicial examination of all the facts or issues between the two sides on a dispute takes place. (Wow, that really is quite a mouthy cover-all isn't it?)
  • Preponderance of evidence: this is when the required evidence presented to the judge and jury gets weighted to be decided towards one side or another. However, its more about which evidence is convincing and more likely to be true rather than the amount of evidence that a side gives.
  • Verdict: While we're pretty much sure that everyone already knows this term, it better to be safe, so...the verdict of a trial is the decision in a case that is made by a judge or jury, depending on who is overseeing and acting as the 'final say' so to speak.
  • Appeal: If something happens in your case that you think was wrong, whether it be how the case was carried out or even the final verdict, you can always ask for a higher court to review your case. By reviewing it (aka. appealing)--depending on the situation--you might have a chance of someone else deciding to overturn the previous ruling and give another in its place. (On that will work in your favor, perhaps?)

One more thing...

While knowing all of this vocab will help you a lot, there is the matter of actually knowing what takes place during a civil case, so here is a rundown below:
  1. The plaintiff will file the complaint, which will start the process.
  2. Afterwards, the defendant receives the summons, which calls them to court on a specific day at a specific time.
  3. From there, the plaintiff and the defendant meet to try to negotiate a reasonable compromise, where mediation may or may not be needed.
  4. If it fails, it will go on trial where a judge and jury will listen to all of the evidence.
  5. Eventually, a verdict will be reached, most likely by using the preponderance of evidence, and any liable parties will be taken care of before the case is officially closed.
That wasn't so bad was it? Look at it this way, now you can claim to be a small expert on the events that make up a civil case and its trial! We here at the firm would like to thank you for sticking with us through this, and would invite you to remember that we're here if you ever need us!
Looking forward to meeting you in person,
Your local law firm.