The Basics Of The Civil Litigation Process

Working with a civil litigation lawyer is a process that can feel alien to many people. You likely have some idea of what happens based on what you've seen from television, movies and the news. Rightly though, you probably have some doubts about how accurate that picture is. Let's follow a timeline of the basics of civil litigation to improve your understanding of the process.

The Complaint

At the core of the process is the complaint. This is a statement of what sort of wrong occurred and what remedies are proposed.

Generally, there are two types of proposed remedies. First, there is a simple award of damages, monetary compensation that's meant to make up for the failures of an allegedly at-fault party. Second, there might be a court order that compels the other side to follow through on what is expected of them. Nothing precludes a request that includes both.


Suppose a small town was pursuing litigation against a water company for installing a faulty system. The town and its citizens would likely want to be compensated for the grief they've suffered due to a bad setup. Likewise, they still need to have the work they paid for done.

A civil litigation lawyer representing the town would make an effort to resolve the matter without going to court. They would send letters telling the company the problems and what has to be done to remedy them. Only once these efforts have failed would the attorney get the courts involved. A letter of intent to sue would be sent to the defendant, and paperwork for the suit would be sent to the court.


Notably, both sides may continue to seek a settlement right up to the point a jury starts deliberations. Offers and counteroffers may be made. If the court doesn't feel enough effort has gone into settling the matter, a judge may order further negotiation prior to a trial.

Discovery and Depositions

All parties to a case have to disclose any evidence they have. In a civil case, this may cover things like emails, texts, memos, electronic tracking data, business logs, and banking data. Both sides may also depose witnesses, meaning they can ask them questions under oath.


If a settlement isn't reached after discovery and depositions are over, a trial is ordered. There can be a trial by jury, or one side can request that a judge rule in a bench trial.

For more information, contact a civil litigation lawyer in your area.