Civil litigation is a legal process in which two or more parties become involved in a noncriminal dispute. Civil cases do not involve criminal charges or penalties. Rather, a plaintiff is seeking monetary compensation or other damages from the defendant. Civil proceedings are similar to criminal proceedings, but the burden of proof is often less stringent. Attorneys in criminal cases must present evidence to prove their case to a jury or judge beyond a reasonable doubt. Lawyers in civil cases must simply present more compelling evidence than the opposing party.
Civil courts handle a multitude of cases, but common lawsuits include personal injury, property disputes and breach of contract. Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, you need to hire a civil litigation law attorney to help you file the correct documents and represent you in court if necessary. Read on for more information regarding the California civil litigation process:
Types of Civil Court Cases
Civil courts handle all cases that do not involve criminal charges. Generally, these cases involve issues such as:
- Tort claims: A tort is classified as an act that causes injury to an individual’s person, property or reputation. Individuals who committed the wrongful act can be held liable in a civil court. They may be ordered to compensate the claimant for financial losses, physical injuries or emotional stress. Examples of tort cases include negligence, defamation, personal injury and medical malpractice.
- Property disputes: Property law involves a wide range of issues, including property ownership and disputes involving damages to an individual’s property or real estate. A common issue handled by civil litigation attorneys is property line disputes. This type of case occurs when one party alleges that a neighbor has breached the legal boundary line between their two homes for a purpose such as building a shed or planting a tree.
- Breach of contract claims: A breach of contract can be described as the breaking of a verbal or written agreement between at least two different parties. To qualify to file a claim in a court of law, you must meet certain qualifications. These qualifications include proving the existence of a contract, outlining the terms of the contract and proving the other party failed to execute their part of the agreement. Examples include failing to complete a construction job, not paying employee wages on time or failing to deliver promised goods.
- Real estate claims: Civil courts routinely handle disputes between tenants and landlords. Examples include a tenant suing for the return of a security deposit or a landlord evicting a tenant over failure to pay rent.
Essentially, a civil case can be filed by any party who can prove damages were caused by the wrongful act of another party.
Role of a Civil Litigation Attorney
Litigation attorneys are legal experts who represent plaintiffs or defendants in civil cases. The tasks carried out by the lawyer depends on the nature of the dispute, but often include gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses and preparing and responding to pleadings, settlements and appeals. In addition, litigation legal teams represent their clients in a variety of in-person proceedings, including pretrial hearings and depositions. Lawyers can also assist in arbitration and mediation efforts, processes that are carried out to help the two parties settle without going to court.
Hiring an experienced law firm in Palm Desert, California, such as Bochnewich Law Offices can help you successfully navigate this complex legal process.
Stages of a Civil Litigation Case
In Palm Desert, California, a civil litigation law case may be filed in one of three places: district court, justice court or small claims court. Where you file depends on how much money is involved.
Civil litigation cases are divided into various stages. Generally, the discovery process takes the longest and is the most labor-intensive for the legal team. Contrary to popular belief, the amount of time actually spent in court is often minimal. These are the stages of the civil litigation process in California:
- Pre-filing: During this phase, the dispute is identified and each party gathers pertinent information. Mediation or arbitration proceedings often take place at this stage to avoid a court case.
- Pleading: In this stage, the plaintiff files a complaint to start the court case. The defendant then files a response with the court. Such responses are typically called motions.
- Discovery: There are no in-person court proceedings during the discovery phase. Rather, both sides exchange information through their attorneys. Both sides gather details about the case and are legally obligated to forward evidence found to the other party.
- Pre-trial: This is the trial preparation phase. Both sides gather evidence, prepare witnesses and engage in settlement talks. Motions may also be filed with the court to narrow the scope of the case.
- Trial: The case is heard by a judge or jury during this phase of the process. Depending on the case’s complexity, this phase can last months or years. Before the trial phase ends, witnesses are examined, information is presented, a decision is made and a judgment is entered.
- Post-trial: After the trial, both sides have the right to appeal the decision. If no appeals are made, the winning party can attempt to collect any damages awarded.
Not every civil case goes through each stage. In fact, the majority of cases are settled through mediation, arbitration or other agreements before a trial starts. Even after the trial begins, both sides can still come to a settlement at any point in the process. Another option is settling one specific aspect of the case while leaving another decision to the courts.
If the case does go through each stage of the process, it can take anywhere from several months to a few years to resolve.
Contact Bochnewich Law Offices
Bochnewich Law Offices is a firm located in Palm Desert, California that specializes in civil litigation law. Our attorneys are experienced in a wide range of civil law issues, including personal injury, tort claims, landlord-tenant issues and contract breaches, among others. Contact us at 866-957-9866 today to discuss your legal options or to schedule a consultation.
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