Personal Injury Lawyer

What Are Civil Lawsuits And How Do They Work?

What Are Civil Lawsuits And How Do They Work?

Understanding what civil lawsuits are and their proceedings is an important thing to do especially if you ever find yourself in the middle of one. So, if you ever see yourself bringing a lawsuit forward, the important thing to know is how the process of civil lawsuits works. These lawsuits are typically carried out following very distinct practices which include: pleadings, discovery, motions, and trial. 


The first step when you are bringing a civil lawsuit forward or if you are facing one yourself is the pleadings process. In this stage, each party will file their initial paperwork, known as pleadings, in which they will essentially get a chance to explain their side of the dispute through the means of a “complaint” and an “answer.” The entire procedure starts with the “complaint”, where litigation officially begins when the petitioner files their complaint with the courts and delivers a copy of it to the person they are bringing the civil lawsuit against. In their complaint, they must detail what the defendant did to harm the petitioner and on what legal grounds is the defendant responsible for that harm.

After the complaint has been filed and received by the other party, the next step is the “answer.” A lawyer, like a personal injury lawyer, could tell you that at this point, a specific amount of time is given to the person being sued to file an answer to the complaint, this serves as a way for the defendant to tell their side of the story. Following, the defendant can choose to file a counterclaim, where they allege the plaintiff has harmed them and they need to be held responsible. When a counterclaim is filed, the plaintiff can file a reply in which they respond to the defendant’s answer or counterclaim. There are some cases where the defendant can ask for further clarification in the allegations that are being made or they may ask the courts to dismiss part or all of the civil lawsuit. 


The next step in a civil lawsuit after the pleadings part is discovery. Discovery is typically the longest part of a civil lawsuit. Through this proceeding, civil attorneys gather information from opposing counsel, and witnesses, researching, and doing document reviews to establish a basis and a defense for their clients. During discovery, attorneys ask for information through the means of asking written questions, requesting copies of documents, requests admissions, and conducting depositions. 

Depositions are a beneficial part of the discovery process. This is the process where witnesses are questioned under oath by the parties’ attorneys who are conducting the deposition and the entity of their answers are recorded. They can have multiple different advantages serving as a way to compare what multiple witnesses claim to have happened, they can also be used in trials to show the inconsistencies in a witness’ account of things and to discredit the credibility of a witness, and a recorded testimony taken during a deposition can be used in trial as an alternative if the witness is unable to attend the trial in person. 

Another step in the discovery stage of a civil lawsuit is gathering expert witnesses. Many times in civil suits to backup claims being brought forward attorneys look to expert witnesses to support a claim or a defense. They can be used to either validate, explain information on the claim, or build a connection between the losses a plaintiff suffered and how they relate to the defendant.

Motion And Trial

There are times when either side may need to ask the court for something before or during the trial. To ask the court for something during litigation, you need to file a motion or a request, which are typically written up but can be asked orally in court. In civil lawsuits, several different motions can be filed by either the defendant or plaintiff.  Some of these motions include:

  • Motion for Continuance. Asked when needed more time to prepare for a court hearing or trial.
  • Motion to Amend Petitions. If there is something that needs to be changed, added, or removed from the documents you have already filed with the court.
  • Motions to Reinstate. If nothing has happened in your case, the court may decide to dismiss your case. You can file a motion to reinstate to keep your case open or if your case has already been dismissed you can ask the court to reopen it. 
  • Motion to Quash. Asks the court to confirm you don’t have to respond to a discovery request. 

Attorneys, like those at Brandy Austin Law Firm, know that when involved in a civil lawsuit the purpose of a trial is so both parties are given a chance to convince either a judge or a jury to agree with them. Both sides try to convince the jury or judge by presenting the facts of their cases and their stories, including any evidence that helps support their side. Through the trial period, the goal is to come to a decision or to establish a settlement amount. For instance, in civil lawsuit cases via a trial, the amount of money getting awarded is decided. Trials can be extremely tricky and knowing all of their procedures is extremely intricate which is why the best option is always to seek professional representation! For help with your case, reach out to a law firm you can rely on.