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A Guide to Civil Cases

Throughout the process of a Civil Case, it is very easy to get confused in the language and steps. Here is a quick guide to help you through your case!


  1. You, the Plaintiff, hire's a lawyer. The Plaintiff is the one who is initiating the lawsuit.
  2. Your lawyer files a Pleading, or a Complaint: It's a formal document or statement that someone has wronged you by breaking a contract or damages.
  3. The Court sends the Defendant (The person who wronged you) a Summons: it is an official document calling the defendant to court.
  4. The defendant then files an answer or response to the complaint.
  5. Then both sides and their lawyers have a Pretrial Conference to discuss and clarify the issues that will be brought up and to reveal the witnesses that will be called to court during the trial.
  6. The Discovery Phase: This is where the lawyers try and gather up evidence for their clients.
  7. Before going to court, a judge might suggest that the plaintiff and defendant could reach an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). This could mean Mediation (A neutral Party guides a discussion between both parties to come to a resolution, but the mediator doesn't make the decision, the parties do) or Arbitration (More formal than Meditation. There are 1-3 arbitrators to hear both sides of the case, then come to a decision that the Parties can choose whether or not to agree).
  8. If an ADR isn't issued or nothing is resolved in those processes, you will go to court for Trial for the formal examination of evidence before a judge and where the Plaintiff and Defendant present their sides. The Plaintiff has the Burden of Proof or Preponderance of Proof, meaning that the Plaintiff's evidence must be stronger than the Defendants.
  9. Finally the court will issue a verdict where the defendant is innocent or guilty. Then if either the Plaintiff or Defendant find the trial unfair they can opt for an Appeal which will take the case to a higher court for further examination.