What to Expect as a Plaintiff in a Civil Suit
If you are considering bringing a civil lawsuit against someone else, it is important that you have an idea what to expect- for most of our clients, this is a new experience, and something they don't do more than once in their lifetimes.
Here are the highlights:
The document your lawyer files with the court to start the lawsuit is called a complaint. There is usually a 2-3 week period after the complaint is filed in which the defendants are formally served, then another 20 days or more after that before they file their answer. It is only after both the complaint and answer are filed that the court sets a schedule for discovery.
You will be asked for documents and to answer written questions- this is called written discovery. It may feel intrusive, but the rules allow the parties to request a wide range of information. You will have the opportunity to make the same kinds of requests on the defendant. You will likely have to give deposition testimony, if the case does not settle before that point. This is usually at least six months or so out from when you file the complaint.
The defendant may file a motion for summary judgment at the end of discovery- if they believe the documentary evidence and testimony supports their legal defenses, they will ask the court to dispose of the case before trial. This is something to be taken seriously in the response, but the fact that a motion is filed should not cause you too much alarm.
Assuming no summary judgment is granted, the court will schedule a trial. it is not unusual these days for the trial date to be two years or more after you file the complaint.
Learn more here about what to expect as a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit.
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