Litigation is the legal process for resolving a civil or commercial dispute through the courts. It is defined as the act of bringing or contesting a civil lawsuit to determine and enforce legal rights, and results in a judicial decision. This decision is binding upon all parties involved, and so it is important to ensure that you have the best chance of a decision in your favor if you become involved in litigation.
A huge variety of civil and commercial disputes are resolved through litigation. Litigation in this sense does not involve criminal charges; these are dealt with through a different judicial process. The judicial decision will involve payment of monetary damages to the plaintiff by the defendant, the clarification of the rights of the plaintiff and defendant, or an injunction to prevent or compel a particular act by the defendant.
Becoming involved in litigation, whether you are the bringing the lawsuit to right an injustice you have suffered, or if you need to contest a lawsuit brought against you, is an incredibly stressful process. You will most likely be unfamiliar with the terminology, process and potential consequences, and need an experienced, trusted lawyer whom you can rely on to guide you through the process. Michigan Lawyers & Attorneys has extensive expertise and experience in both bringing and contesting civil and commercial lawsuits, and will be with you at every step of the way, relieving much of the stress of litigation. If you are unfortunately already familiar with the litigation process, you will recognize the importance of having a skilled, creative lawyer to present your case in the most advantageous way, making sure all angles are covered and giving you the very best chance of a decision in your favor.
Reasons for Civil Litigation
If you have been the victim of a physical injury inflicted by someone else, or had your property damaged, it is essential that you pursue litigation in order to receive monetary compensation, or damages.
Many civil lawsuits are related to events that took place in the workplace. If you have been unfairly dismissed, suffered a work-related injury or have another grievance against your employer, you can begin civil litigation against the company. In these cases, your livelihood (and the security of your family) may well be at stake, so it is of utmost importance that you do not try to do this alone or with an inexperienced attorney. For the very best outcome, that allows you to successfully rebuild your life, you need an expert litigation attorney from Michigan Lawyers & Attorneys at your side. You only have one chance; make it count.
Another area of civil litigation involves money you are owed, for example by a tenant who fails to pay their rent or a customer who fails to pay their bill. Civil litigation is the process through which you will recover your money, as the other party will be ordered to pay what they owe you. If they do not, the court has the power to seize their assets, for example through liens or wage or bank garnishment.
If you have been unfairly denied Social Security disability benefits, litigation can also help you present your case in front of a court of law, who will determine whether or not you have entitlement, and if so, enforce payment to you.
The Civil Litigation Process
The litigation process begins with the filing of a written complaint by the person bringing the lawsuit, the plaintiff, outlining the legal basis for the lawsuit and the facts about the situation. This written complaint must be filed at the appropriate level court in the appropriate jurisdiction. Once the complaint is received by the court, the clerk of the court issues a summons, which is delivered to the defendant together with the complaint.
The defendant then delivers a written answer to the court within a time limit set by the court. The written answer can involve not only the legal basis for answer entered, but also counterclaims against the plaintiff and challenges to the court's jurisdiction.
Instead of responding to the complaint, the defendant can file for a motion to dismiss, by disputing the validity of the claim. However, if this is rejected by the court, there may be no right to appeal, and so the defendant needs to be absolutely sure of the legal basis for their arguments, by having an expert litigation lawyer to help prepare all communications with the court.
After this, both plaintiff and defendant engage in what is known as the 'discovery process', which involves both parties gathering the facts behind the litigation, through written questions, verbal questioning of witnesses, and exchange of documents. During discovery, either party can file a motion to exclude a particular fact or legal issue, which can result in the other party being prevented from arguing a specific legal theory or calling a particular witness.
At the end of discovery, if both parties wish to continue and not either settle or drop the claim, the case will then finally go to court. At the court, either a judge or a jury will make the determination of who is legally in the right and determines what monetary damages or injunctions are appropriate. It may be possible to choose between a jury or a judge, but for some types of litigation and in some jurisdictions, there is no right to jury trial.
After the court's decision, it is possible to file appeals. For example, the losing defendant may appeal the decision against them, but the winning plaintiff may also appeal if they do not feel that the monetary judgement awarded was large enough. The litigation process therefore does not end at the court hearing, and the decisions you make after the court's decision can be as critical as those you make at other stages of the litigation process.
Settlement Out of Court
It is important to note that many times, the litigation is settled before a case goes to court. This spares both parties presenting their cases in the court, but means that the outcome will not be determined by a judge or jury, according to legal regulations and protocols to ensure fairness, and there will be no appeals. In these cases, it is essential to have an experienced and expert lawyer on your side, to determine whether to is best to accept or offer a settlement out of court, or whether it is in your best interests to pursue the case all the way to court. A wrong decision at this stage can cost you thousands, but Michigan Lawyers & Attorneys can ensure that your interests are protected and the litigation results in the best outcome possible.
Litigation Alone, or with a Lawyer
Litigation can quickly become very complex, with claims and counterclaims and the involvement of multiple defendants and witnesses. As you can see, the litigation process involves many steps and many important decisions made under time limits, from the legal arguments presented in the complaint or response to a complaint and the decision whether to file motions to exclude particular facts, to whether a jury or judge will be most advantageous and which witnesses to call.
It is possible to file papers alone, which is known as appearing pro se, and courts may even have a special clerk to help people filing pro se. However, without proper legal training and experience, it is impossible to cover all the appropriate legal facts and arguments, and present them in an effective manner for the court. Someone unfamiliar with the legal process cannot hope to understand and present the pertinent issues as well as an experienced attorney, and the clerk does not have the time to spend with you that an attorney does.
Even if you have a great case, if you do not present it well and do not respond appropriately to the other party's legal arguments, you will not succeed in court. While it may be tempting to save money by filing for yourself, just consider the consequences of losing a lawsuit you could have won had you had a lawyer on your side. You have much more to lose than the cost of hiring a litigation lawyer; it could be ruinous.
As the old saying goes, "Anyone who chooses to be their own lawyer, has a fool for a client."
Let us relieve the stress of litigation and set you up for success. Give Michigan Lawyers & Attorneys a call today and let our experienced, skilled and creative litigation lawyers work for you.