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How the civil lawsuit process works

As you may already be aware, civil cases are often brought by a single individual or company against either another person, business or government entity. A large portion of civil lawsuits that are brought center around collecting on a debt, damage to one's property or person, a contract being violated or a divorce.

In the case of a civil lawsuit, the individual who brings the legal action against another, or files the claim, is known as the plaintiff. The entity who the lawsuit is filed against is known as the defendant.

Often times, a civil lawsuit is commenced when either a petition of complaint is filed. In that legal filing, the plaintiff spells out why he or she is suing the defendant and what course of action he or she is expecting the defendant to take. If arbitration is required in the matter in accordance with court rules, then it's the responsibility of the plaintiff to spell that out in his or her complaint.

In order for a civil lawsuit to move forward in the court system, it's required that the plaintiff have both the summons to appear in court to discuss the matter along with the complaint served on the plaintiff. Generally, court rules require a defendant to respond within 20 days to the complaint.

After that response has been submitted and before the case is heard in court, both the plaintiff and defendant are able to exchange information related to the case. This is known as discovery.

Once the case proceeds to trial, the plaintiff can demand for either the judge or a jury to hear the matter. During a trial, both parties will be able to make statements, introduce evidence and to cross examine witnesses. Whichever party loses the case is entitled to appeal the matter with the next highest presiding court judge.

Whether you're facing a civil lawsuit or you're looking to file one yourself against someone, a Surprise, Arizona, civil litigation attorney can advise you of the merits of doing so in your case.

Source: Arizona Judicial Branch, "How a Case Moves Through the Court System," accessed Dec. 22, 2017

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