Court Proceedings for a Civil Case

Early Steps

As my client you need to understand how the proceedings for a civil case work. The first step in the process is that the Plaintiff, (you) decides to sue. The person you are suing is called the defendant. Next, you will hire an attorney and the attorney will file a complaint, which is a formal statement that names the parties and describes the nature of a lawsuit. Next, the court will summon the defendant, or order him or her to appear in court on a certain date. The defendant will send a response called a pleading, either admitting guilt or giving reasons why he/she is not responsible.

Pretrial & Trial

Next, a Pretrial Conference is called by the judge. There, the two sides clarify their differences. Most civil cases are settled before the trial through mediation, (third party facilitates discussion and helps two sides come to a consensus) or arbitration, (a third party settles the dispute). If the case is still not settled, it goes to trial. In trial, the case is heard by a jury of 6 to 12 people OR a judge. The plaintiff presents their side first, then the defendant. Afterwards both sides summarize their cases. The plaintiff must prove their case with a "preponderance of evidence", which is enough evidence to persuade the judge or jury that the defendant is responsible for the damages. Finally, the Judge or jury decides the verdict. The loser can appeal if they did not find the ruling to be fair.