What Is Civil Litigation?

Civil litigation occurs when individuals, corporations or even the federal government sue another person or entity for failing to fulfill a legal duty. The goal is generally to honor an agreement or right a wrong, making compensation for harm suffered and possibly awarding non-monetary equitable relief.


The burden of proof is higher in a civil case, requiring “clear and convincing evidence.” There are many stages to a civil suit.


A civil case begins when a person or company files a “complaint” with the court. A complaint alleges facts that show that someone has been wronged and asks the court for relief, such as money damages. A lawsuit can also seek an injunction to stop something from happening, or a declaratory judgment to settle a dispute about the law.

The plaintiff must file the complaint in the right court, which depends on the type of lawsuit and factors such as where the parties live or where the wrongful conduct occurred. The plaintiff must pay a filing fee unless he or she has been approved to proceed in forma pauperis (without paying a fee).

Before filing your complaint, you should research your court’s rules on how to draft and file complaints. Your local law library is a good place to start; it should have books that include example complaints on various topics. You may also be able to find sample complaints in other cases that have been filed with your court. After you have drafted your complaint, you must make arrangements to have it served on the defendants and to file it with the clerk.


After a lawsuit is filed in the proper court, a defendant must respond. This is typically done through a document called an answer. An answer gives the defendant a chance to address the plaintiff’s factual allegations as well as assert any affirmative defenses that they believe may defeat the plaintiff’s claim.

The answer also allows the defendant to make counterclaims against the plaintiff and cross-claims against co-defendants. In addition, an answer can include admissions that the defendant feels are relevant to the case.

An attorney can help a defendant draft the proper answer to a complaint and ensure that it is properly formatted. This is especially important as the law requires that a defendant sign an answer which means that it must be accurate. It is a good idea to do a line-by-line review of the answer before it is signed so that there are no inadvertent admits and that all of the allegations are addressed. This is particularly important because a failure to address an allegation could result in a default judgment against the defendant.이혼전문변호사


After the complaint and answer are filed, the case enters the discovery phase. This is where both parties attempt to gather evidence to support their claims or defenses in the case. Discovery can include written interrogatories, depositions, requests for production of documents or things, requests for admissions, and other discovery devices.

During the discovery process, both sides are allowed to obtain information that is relevant to the lawsuit unless it is considered “privileged” or protected by law. This can include any type of document related to the dispute, background information of witnesses (personal, social, or professional), and testimony from experts. In some cases, a party may need to subpoena someone outside the case to produce information or documents such as business records or medical examinations.

The discovery process also helps both sides know what types of evidence the other side will be presenting at trial. This prevents surprises and often leads to settlements. If a settlement cannot be reached, either or both parties may be referred to mediation or arbitration. If no resolution is reached, the case will eventually go to trial.


As with any litigation, Civil matters are complex and the advice of an experienced attorney is necessary. Typically, civil disputes arise from a relationship between individuals or companies rather than the government and involve monetary damages. Examples include contract disputes, employment issues, landlord-tenant disputes, and divorce. Unlike criminal matters, where facts must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden of proof in Civil matters is “preponderance of the evidence.”

After the plaintiff’s complaint is filed, the defendant will file an answer and sometimes counterclaim(s). An answer includes their description of events leading to the dispute and outlines any inaccuracies or falsehoods in the plaintiff’s allegation(s). Counterclaim(s) are allegations against the defendant that establish legal bases for holding them liable.

The discovery process begins after the pleadings are filed and often lasts until shortly before trial. During this time, parties will gain knowledge through document requests, depositions of witnesses and parties, written interrogatories (questions and answers provided under oath), and examining the scene. Parties will also use expert witness testimony to validate their claims.


A verdict in a civil case is the finding by a judge or jury that the defendant is responsible, by a preponderance of the evidence, for the plaintiff’s claimed damages. After both sides present their case, the jury retires to a private room where they examine the evidence and decide whether the defendant should be held liable for the plaintiff’s damages.

The plaintiff gives his or her opening statement first. This sets the stage for presenting key evidence and arguing why the jury should find in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant’s attorney then presents the defense argument and rebuts any key evidence presented by the plaintiff.

The decision is then made by the jury, which must be unanimous. If it is, the foreperson of the jury announces the verdict and everyone present signs it. If not, a new trial is scheduled. Either party may appeal the jury’s decision to a higher court, known as a court of appeals. The appellate court will examine the case for errors in law or procedure, and if it finds an error, the case will be reversed and sent back to the lower court for a new trial.