What exactly is the litigation process [what happens in a lawsuit]?
Lawyers must decide whether or not a particular state or federal court has jurisdiction over a dispute. What district or county court or Federal court is the correct place to file? Is the plaintiff the right person to sue? Do they have ‘standing’?
Cases usually begin with the filing of a Complaint and then the service of a Summons notifying the Defendant that they have a limited period of time to respond to the the court and the Plaintiff. A Defendant will typically file an Answer and may also seek dismissal of the lawsuit on procedural or other grounds. Trials typically occur after a period of many months during which time the parties seek and exchange information including statements of witnesses and relevant documents or other evidence. If a case cannot be resolved the court will schedule a trial. At the trial pre-trial orders and rules of evidence strictly control what may be said by a witness or entered into evidence to be considered by a judge or a jury.
ALTERNATE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Litigation is both time consuming and expensive. Is there a better way? There are a number of options for parties who seek to augment or avoid litigation altogether. The catch? The parties must agree. Alternative dispute resolution in order to be binding upon the parties must agree to substitute an alternative process foregoing their right to a trial before a judge or a jury. If most people were able to compromise and agree they probably would have already resolved their differences. Sometimes a judge will encourage the parties to seek alternatives. I had a case where the parties resolved their case through professional private mediation after a trial but before the court issued a decision!