You hear it in movies, television shows, and now even from the President of the United States: “I’m gonna sue you!” It’s a threat, unquestionably, but the person making that threat is almost never the one who carries it out. That job belongs to a civil litigation attorney.
What Is Civil Litigation?
When two or more parties are engaged in a legal dispute and seeking damages (money) from the other party (or parties) instead of criminal sanctions, that results in civil litigation, and necessitates hiring a civil litigation attorney.
Broadly speaking, civil litigation is a legal process in which criminal charges and penalties (jail time) are not at issue.
If the matter is not resolved by settlement, than it will eventually be taken to court and a civil litigation trial will occur and the outcome will be decided by a jury.
For those who remember the O.J. Simpson trial, he was famously found not guilty in criminal court, but found ”responsible” in the subsequent civil litigation trial.
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The Role Of A Civil Litigation Attorney
A lawyer who specializes in civil litigation is commonly known as a “litigator” or “trial lawyer”. He or she represents their clients across a wide range of civil proceedings, including pretrial hearings, depositions, arbitration and/or mediation before administrative agencies or court personnel.
Arbitration and mediation are legal processes in which a civil litigation attorney from both sides of the dispute meet and try to agree on a settlement to the dispute without having to go through a civil litigation trial.
When Do You Need A Civil Litigation Attorney?
There are a wide range of both personal and professional circumstances that can result in legal disputes and may require the help of a civil litigation attorney. Some examples include:
- Environmental law
- Landlord/tenant disputes
- Product liability lawsuits
- Personal injury claims
- Intellectual property disputes
- Medical malpractice claims
- Employment and labor law disputes
- Real estate lawsuits
- Worker’s compensation claims
- Divorce lawsuits
Regardless of the category under which a civil lawsuit is defined, almost every civil litigation attorney will have to go through the same process to help their client resolve their dispute.
The Civil Litigation Process
Civil litigation goes through several stages, including investigation, pleadings, discovery, pretrial proceedings, settlement negotiations, trial (if no settlement is reached), and possibly appeal.
Unlike how the process is often portrayed in movies and television, very few civil litigation cases go all the way to trial. Most cases are settled “out of court” between the attorneys for each side of the dispute.
If a civil litigation attorney deems a case worthy of going all the way through the trial process with their client, that process can take anywhere from a few months to several years, depending on a wide range of factors that are often out of the control of one or both parties.