CRIMINAL VS. CIVIL LAWSUITS
The purpose of the criminal trial is to determine if the defendant violated the law or not. If the defendant is convicted, he or she will get some form of punishment from the government agency. In most civil cases, the plaintiff is seeking monetary compensation for breaching contracts. Each state has its own procedures for civil lawsuits, and the differences exist between the state and the federal courts. Even within the same state, each county might have different procedures. If you are not fully aware of these differences or if you do not follow the procedures of the court that you are going to file, the case might be dismissed before the trial.
CONTINGENCY FEES VS. HOURLY FEES
There are two types of attorney fees in civil cases. The first type is the contingency fee, and the second type is paying by the work hours. The contingency fee means that the lawyer is taking a portion of the monetary compensation received from the case from either winning the case or reaching a settlement. The civil lawsuits for auto accidents, unpaid wages, accidents and/or bodily injuries from work, and debt collection are common cases of contingency fees. Paying by the hours of work means that the client is paying for the total hours that the lawyer claims that he or she has worked on the case. The average hourly rate of the trial attorney is $500 to $700, and the lawyer sends the invoice every month. Let’s say the lawyer worked 8 hours for 5 days for a client. Then, the lawyer would ask for $20,000-$30,000, depending on the hourly rate. Usually, the lawyers do not agree to the contingency fee when asked to take criminal cases, cases over business disputes or real property, family court cases, or immigration cases.
FIRST STEP: FILE THE COMPLAINT
The first step of a civil lawsuit is when the plaintiff comes up with a complaint. In this complaint, the information of the plaintiff and defendant, the explanation of why this lawsuit has started, the content of the dispute, and requested remedies are all included. The plaintiff can sue everyone who is involved in the dispute. After the complaint is completed, it has to be filed at the designated court along with the filing fee. Then, the court will issue the case number. A complaint must state all of the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant and also specify what remedies the plaintiff is seeking.
HOW TO SERVE THE COMPLAINT
Then, the court will notify the defendant by sending the notice that the complaint has been filed. There are specific requirements to follow when serving the complaint to the defendant. Generally speaking, it could be handed to the defendant, a family member, or a housemate of the defendant. However, in divorce cases, it needs to be handed directly to the defendant. Once the defendant receives the complaint, he or she may respond by submitting his or her own opinions. The defendant can also represent himself or herself at the court. However, the defendant automatically loses the case and has to compensate the plaintiff if he or she does not respond to the complaint within the deadline. After receiving the complaint, the defendant must respond with an answer.
What Happens After the Complaint is Served?
It is also possible to include multiple disputes in one lawsuit. Also, if the plaintiff finds out that there is another potential defendant, this new defendant can be included in the same lawsuit. On the other hand, the defendant has an option to counterclaim the plaintiff. Up to this point, it can be covered by the initial fee, which starts from $3000 to $5000. However, the attorney fees start to add up really quickly after this point.
PRE-TRIAL: DISCOVERY AND DEPOSITION
The next stage is the pre-trial, which includes discovery and deposition. Discovery, in the law of common law jurisdictions, is a pre-trial procedure in a lawsuit in which each party, through the law of civil procedure, can obtain evidence from the other party or parties by means of discovery devices such as interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions and depositions.A deposition is a witness’s sworn out-of-court testimony. It is used to gather information as part of the discovery process and, in limited circumstances, may be used at trial. If you lie after being sworn, you will be punished for perjury. Both parties can find out what kind of evidence each party has and they can also verify if the evidence could be submitted to the court. Also, expert reports and scientific data can be presented as evidence, too. Only the evidence that was presented during discovery can actually be used at the trial. Therefore, it can be clear which party has stronger evidence after the discovery. What needs to be done during the discovery is to dismiss the strong evidence of the other party.
WHY CONSIDERING SETTLEMENT AFTER DISCOVERY?
Both parties need to present more credible witness statements and the scientific evidence verified through experiments and certified reports from professional experts. Plus, all of the evidence needs to be presented in a certain format required by law. Just keep in mind that it takes quite a lot of time to prepare these documents and statements. Usually, the attorney fees skyrocket during this process, and that is why many litigants decide to go for settlements. Once the clients receive the monthly invoice from their lawyers, they tend to give up their original plan because they cannot possibly afford the quickly increasing cost. If they do not reach a settlement, they will move onto trials.
BENCH TRIAL AND JURY TRIAL
In law, a trial is a coming together of parties to a dispute, to present information (in the form of evidence) in a tribunal, a formal setting with the authority to adjudicate claims or disputes. A bench trial is a trial by judge, as opposed to a trial by jury. Judges and jurors listen to both parties and examine the presented evidence. They will decide which side seems more credible. At this point, civil and criminal cases have different standards. In a civil trial, you can win a case by showing that your evidence is more truthful than the other party. However, in a criminal case, the district attorney has to prove that there is an absolute truth. Therefore, the standards are stricter in criminal cases.
DIRECT AND CROSS-EXAMINATIONS
At trials, the plaintiff and the defendant should testify at the witness stand. When they are asked by their own attorneys, they get to share their side of the story, but they might lose their senses and become very emotional as they are cross-examined by the other party. Some litigants without any previous trial experiences might lose emotional control and it can eventually affect the outcome negatively. Trials are all about proving your truthfulness or denying the claim in front of judges and jurors. The credibility of each person plays a big part throughout the trial process.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO RESOLVE A DISPUTE?
A settlement is the best solution for a dispute. You can easily start a civil lawsuit by paying a couple of thousands to a lawyer. However, it takes years to get to the trial and the attorney fees go up to millions of dollars. The lawyers do not usually tell their clients about high costs, and that is why you have to be aware of this reality. You should not start a lawsuit just because you want to prove you’re right or the other person is wrong.