Civil Litigation is a term that is conventionally used to describe disputes between parties where the dispute is not criminal in nature. Lawyers ordinarily treat many specialized legal areas as outside of this definition including personal injury, employment law, family law and estate litigation, although these are all, technically, types of civil litigation.
Civil Litigation can take many forms depending on the type of case. However, in general, this is the legal process that lawyers and most lay people think of when they hear the word lawsuit. Ordinarily, a dispute begins with an exchange of letters between the lawyer for the complaining party and the opposing party, who may in turn retain his or her own lawyer. An effort is made to resolve the dispute. If the case does not get resolved, the complaining party may issue a claim through the Court.
The other party will then be served with the claim and thereafter the parties, depending on the size and nature of the case, may conduct examinations for discovery. This discovery process involves each party to the dispute being questioned under oath by the other party’s lawyer, but it is before the trial and conducted without the presence of a judge and in a setting less formal than a courtroom. If the case does not settle after these examinations, it may eventually go to mediation, arbitration, pre-trial settlement conference or, ultimately, a trial.
The vast majority of cases are resolved in one manner or another prior to a trial.