How Do Lawsuits Work? The Basics Explained

Whether you have seen someone getting served in a movie or read a crime novel, we are pretty familiar with what a lawsuit is. But ask the average person what the next step should be if they were in the middle of a legal conundrum, and you’ll meet a panicky individual whose main concern was hiring a lawyer. 

However, the chances of being swept up in a lawsuit are rising, with US courts report civil cases increasing by 16% over 2020. 

So how do lawsuits work? 

Well, our brief overview will give you the low down on all you need to know.

How Do Lawsuits Work in the Beginning?

To begin with, the person filing the lawsuit is “the plaintiff” and the person they are disputing “the defendant.” The plaintiff’s lawyer will work with their client to clarify exactly what the complaint is, and the damages they are seeking. This documentation is called the complaint

The type of court depends much on what is being disputed and how much money the plaintiff demands. If it is a relatively low amount (less than $5000 in most states), it may be possible to resolve the matter in a small claims court, with no need for lawyers or a jury. 

If not, it may need to go to a state or even federal court.

With the ball rolling, the courts will officially inform the defendant a case is pending, called service of process

The defendant is also given a summons telling them what the next steps are. 

So what’s next?

The Defendant’s Next Move

The defendant needs to provide an answer. In this response, they present their version of events. They are also within their rights to present a counterclaim in it; the defendant presents arguments showing they are the wronged party and deserve compensation.

In all of these situations, once new information comes to light, either side has the right to reply

Once everything is clear, then going to court becomes a reality.

But even before then, things can, and in most cases do, get resolved through a settlement out of court. 

Why a Lawsuit Settlement Is a Popular Outcome

At any point in the process, a lawsuit settlement can happen. Some of the reasons this is the most favorable option are:

  • Avoiding the long and expensive legal process
  • Recognizing that the defendant is unable to pay the damages the plaintiff is looking for
  • If both parties are willing to negotiate
  • If they are not confident that they will win

Settlements can come about without any external interventions; however, most cases involve an arbiter or some form of mediator. Regardless, due to the unexpected nature of legal cases, it is common for people to look for a settlement loan cash advance.

But settlements are not always possible, so then the trial procedure starts. 

How Trials Work

Lawyers will generally request different forms of motions before this.

Motions request the judge to make rulings. These rulings include requests for both sides to have the same information to prepare (motion to discover) or even to close the case totally due to it having no legal foundation (motion to dismiss).

Trials can either be “bench trials,” with a judge making a ruling or a jury trial. Cases are presented by either side regardless of the types of lawsuits or trials, and witnesses can be called, questioned, and cross-examined. 

Once both sides have presented their cases, then both sides give their closing arguments. Then the jury will go away to deliberate on the judgment, eventually coming to a conclusion read out by the jury foreman. 

Whatever judgment a jury or judge has reached can be challenged if there is a legal basis, however, further elongating the process. The winner of the case may also request to have their fees covered by the losing party. 

Understanding the Lawsuit Process

So how do lawsuits work? Hopefully, now you have a clear idea!

We hope our explainer has been useful to you. If you liked it, be sure to check out the other great content on our site!