What to Expect in a Civil Case

By: Kennedy McCutchen- Attorney at Law


This flyer is designed to help you make your way through the simple, yet intimidating world of civil cases. Step by step, you will see how civil cases work and how you, the client, will play your part.

Step One: Getting Started

If you are having trouble with another person, particularly in cases of divorce, injury, or breach of contract, then a civil case would be a good idea for you. Let's say you slipped on your neighbors icy driveway. The first step is decide you want to sue. Once you have confirmed the decision, you, now the plaintiff, must hire a lawyer.

Step Two: File a Complaint

After hiring a suitable attorney, he or she will file a complaint. The complaint names you and the defendant, as well as specific information about the lawsuit. The complaint will be sent to court, where you will wait for the defendant's response.

Step Three: The Summons

Once the court receives your complaint, they send a summons to the defendant, which tells them about the lawsuit and when they should appear in court. The defendant will then send a response declaring guilt or a type of defense. Both the complaint and response are known as pleadings.

Step Four: The Pretrial Conference

The next step is to attend the pretrial conference, where you and the defendant will state your cases and explain your side. You would state that your neighbor's driveway was a hazard that led to injury. Your neighbor could state that you should have watched where you walking. At the conference, you and the defendant may decide on mediation or arbitration. Both lead to the case being resolved without a trial, but mediation is when you and the defendant come to a consensus, where as arbitration would have a third party settling the case for you.

Step Five: The Trial

If you and the defendant proceed with the case, deciding to include more expenses and other costs, both of you will be heard by either a judge or jury. You, the plaintiff, will be heard first, and then the defendant. Once you have both summarized your cases, you must have had a preponderance of evidence, or enough evidence to persuade the judge or jury, in order to prove the defendant guilty.

Step Six: The Verdict

Once you and the defendant have pleaded your cases, the judge or jury will decide the verdict: who wins. If the court decides you win, that your neighbor had a hazardous driveway, the defendant will pay for a remedy to fix what you sued for. If you lose, you must pay for the costs and nothing is changed; the driveway wasn't a hazard. However, as the plaintiff, you are allowed to appeal to a higher court if you do not like the verdict.


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