Reitzel Law Firm

Brianna Reitzel

If you are here . . .

If you are here that means you are looking for a lawyer to represent you in a civil case. Continue reading below to learn about the process you will go through up until the verdict is reached.

The Complaint

You need to hire a lawyer to file your complaint with the proper court. A complaint is basically a formal statement naming the plaintiff (that's you) and the defendant (the person you are trying to sue)

The Summons

Next, the court is going to send a summons to the defendant. The summons is a document that tells the defendant about the suit against him and it orders him to appear in court on a certain day at a certain time.

The Response

Now the defendant is able to respond to the complaint. He can have his own attorney "answer" the complaint. The judges now have the pleadings which is the complain and the answer together. At this point the lawyers from both sides of the case are going to be gathering evidence to help their case.

The Pretrial Conference

This is the time for pretrial discussions, also known as the pretrial conference. The judge might have both parties in a meeting in order to help clarify their differences and prepare for the trial or the defendant and his lawyer might think they have a really strong case and they'll just offer you a settlement. This part of the process usually involves mediation or arbitration which just means that there is an intervention between the two parties to attempt to settle the dispute.

Most civil cases are resolved before the trial . . .

This usually happens because the outcomes at a trial are hard to predict and settlements give at least some predictability in the case. Most courts also have a backlog of civil cases which means that you could be waiting on a trial for years. Trials and legal assistance are also so expensive that both sides are probably ready to quit spending their money before the case ever goes to trial.

The Trial

If the two parties do not settle then the case goes to trial. Your case can either be heard by a judge and jury of six to twelve people or you can opt to have it heard only by a judge. As the plaintiff, you will present your side first, then the defendant will present his side. After each side is presented you may reserve time for a rebuttal and then the judge or jury will begin the preponderance of evidence. This basically means that the judge or jury is going to look at all of the evidence and decide which is more convincing and has more probable truth or accuracy to it. This, however, is not based off of who has more evidence.

The Verdict

At this point the judge or jury comes back with the verdict or the decision they have reached about who won the case. There are two outcomes: either the defendant has to pay however much you are suing him for or the defendant wins, you get nothing, and you have to pay the court costs.

The Appeal

If you lose the verdict in your civil case and you believe that it was unfair you have the right to appeal your case to a higher court. If you do this your case will be sent to an appeals court where they will review your case and either uphold the verdict, reverse the verdict, or send your case back to a lower court to be tried again.