Litigation in a personal injury case is the process of resolving disputes between parties using court proceedings. Litigation aims to resolve legal issues and claims, whether they are brought before a judge or a jury.
The goal of litigation is for both sides to reach an acceptable agreement that ends the litigation. In other words, if you or a loved one suffered injuries and other losses due to someone else's negligence, you may receive compensation for those injuries through litigation. This will most likely come in the form of filing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.
Litigation Versus Lawsuit
The term "litigation" is often used interchangeably with "lawsuit”. However, there are some key differences between these two concepts.
- Litigation is an alternative to other dispute resolution methods such as arbitration, mediation, or informal negotiation.
- Litigation can also be used to negotiate a settlement agreement before both parties go to court.
- A lawsuit is a formal proceeding initiated by one party against another.
- If a settlement is not reached, both parties may take a lawsuit to court, where evidence is presented to a judge or jury.
- A lawsuit may involve several claims filed by different plaintiffs against a single defendant or multiple defendants filing crossclaims against each other.
The goal of litigation is to resolve disputes by filing a lawsuit through the public court system.
How Compensation Awards Work in Litigation
In most cases, all claims will have to be resolved before a final judgment can be entered. If the court finds that the defendant was not negligent, no money award will be made. On the other hand, if the court determines that the defendant was negligent and that negligence led to the plaintiff's injuries, the court will determine how much money the plaintiff should receive from the defendant.
The compensation you could receive in a personal injury lawsuit depends upon:
- The extent of your injuries
- Property damage and other out-of-pocket losses
- Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering
Who Pays My Legal Fees During Litigation?
Many people believe that the defendant has to pay the plaintiff's attorney fees following a lawsuit, but this is incorrect. Typically, personal injury attorneys work on a contingent-fee basis. This means when you hire an attorney to represent you during your lawsuit, you pay nothing upfront or out-of-pocket. Your attorneys gets a percentage of the settlement or court award they obtain for you.
Of course, this fee arrangement is worked out ahead of time before the lawyer takes your case. Your attorney cannot collect a fee unless you win the case.
Important Terms to Know When Filing a Lawsuit
The litigation process usually starts after the plaintiff files a complaint with the court. At this point, the defendant will file a response.
The elements of litigation include:
- Parties -There are two main parties involved in any litigation. They are the plaintiff (the person bringing the suit) and the defendant (the person being sued).
- The lawsuit -The plaintiff files a complaint with the court, alleging that the defendant has caused them harm. This is called filing a lawsuit. It is important to note that this does not mean that the case will go to court; it only indicates that the plaintiff wants to hold the defendant legally liable for their negligence.
- Court -The court decides if the plaintiff has a valid claim. If the court agrees that the plaintiff has a good cause of action, the case goes to trial.
- Jury -The jury hears all the evidence and renders a verdict.
- Trial -The plaintiff presents their case to the jury at trial. During this time, the defendant can submit their case.
- Judgment -After the jury returns its verdict, a judge enters judgment on behalf of the plaintiff.
Steps in the Litigation Process
The litigation process involves:
- Discovery - Discovery is the gathering of information from both sides. It includes requesting documents, asking questions, and taking depositions.
- Motion practice - Both sides file motions to request specific evidence from the opposing party. Moreover, motions are sometimes filed by the plaintiff to ask the court to rule on something decided earlier in the case.
- Expert witnesses - These professionals in their field provide testimony about scientific principles, medical procedures, or anything related to the case's facts. They help introduce facts about the case for either party.
- Pre-trial conference - Before a trial begins, each side views how the case should proceed. These discussions usually happen through a pre-trial conference.
- Trial - Each side presents its case to the judge or jury at trial. Both sides have the right to cross-examine witnesses.
- Post-trial motions - After a trial ends in court, each side has 30 days to file any additional motions. These motions can include requests for new trials, judgments, or appeals.
We Can Represent You During the Litigation Process
If your case goes to litigation, make sure you have a personal injury lawyer who can guide you through the legal process. Contact Dolman Law Group today for your free case evaluation.