Home Blog 13 Phases In Litigation Process (All You Need To Know)

13 Phases In Litigation Process (All You Need To Know)

Wondering about the Litigation Process?

What are the Litigation Process phases?

What’s important to know about it?

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let me explain to you what the Litigation Process is and how it works!

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

What Is Litigation Process

Broadly speaking, litigation refers to the process that a person or company will need to go through to exercise a legal right or take legal action against another.

We generally understand the litigation process to refer to a civil lawsuit filed by a plaintiff against a defendant.

However, the litigation process actually begins before a civil lawsuit is filed in court.

When a person wants to exercise a legal right or take legal action against another, the process starts with a person contacting a qualified attorney to research the potential of filing a lawsuit.

If the lawyer considers that the case has merits to be litigated, then a demand letter is sent to the potential defendant informing them to take certain actions or pay a certain amount in damages.

Ultimately, the case ends up going to court and the parties can eventually get a judgment on the merits of the case.

Keep reading as I will break down the litigation process into its main phases so you know how it works.

Recommended article: What does litigation mean 

Steps In Litigation Process 

Let’s look at the major steps in the litigation process.

1- Incident

The first phase in the litigation process is the incident causing someone or a company damages.

For example, a company may suffer financial damages as a result of another contracting party’s breach of contract.

Another example is when a person suffers an injury caused by another person’s negligence. 

2- Attorney Selection

The second step in the litigation process is for the potential plaintiff to contact a lawyer to assess his or her legal rights.

In some cases, certain plaintiffs will choose to skip this phase and handle the matter themselves.

However, in many cases, a person or company will work with a qualified lawyer who has experience in dealing with a particular issue and has a good track record.

3- Investigation

Once a lawyer is hired, the next step is to investigate the potential claim by gathering all the relevant facts and information.

Typically, the lawyer will speak to the potential plaintiff, potential witnesses, and other individuals that may have relevant information about the case.

Then, the lawyer will contact different people and organizations to gather documents and records relating to the potential claim.

For example, the lawyer may request a person’s medical record or a copy of the contract based on which a claim is to be filed.

Following the investigation phase, the selected attorney will be in a position to say whether or not the potential plaintiff has a legal claim.

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4- Demand Letter

Once the attorney has determined that a potential plaintiff has a possible claim against a potential defendant, a demand letter will be sent to that party.

If the potential plaintiff is seeking compensation for damages suffered, then the demand letter will state how much the plaintiff is seeking compensation.

Alternatively, the plaintiff may request the specific performance of an obligation, such as a party refraining from competing in violation of a non-compete agreement.

If the potential defendant does not respond or the matter is not resolved, the next step is the filing of a lawsuit.

5- Civil Lawsuit

The filing of a civil lawsuit is the first step in the litigation process where the plaintiff formally files legal action before the court.

The plaintiff will need to evaluate the jurisdiction of the court, the timing of when the lawsuit is filed, and other factors to ensure that the lawsuit is properly filed.

For example, if the lawsuit is filed before a court that does not have jurisdiction, the case can be rejected.

Alternatively, if the lawsuit is filed after the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations, then the case can be dismissed even though it was valid on its merits.

6- Pleadings

The pleadings refer to the filing of various documents and arguments on both sides after a lawsuit is filed.

Generally, the plaintiff’s complaint and summons will outline the grounds on which the plaintiff considers the defendant has committed wrongdoings.

The defendant will file an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint and summons or ask for additional clarification.

Recommended article: What is a motion to strike

7- Discovery

Following the initial pleadings filed in the record of the court, the parties will engage in the discovery phase.

During the discovery phase, the parties will try to find the relevant facts and evidence needed to prove their case in court.

Here are the different methods a party can collect facts:

  • By sending the other party written questions known as interrogatories
  • By requesting that the other party produce documents
  • By taking depositions of different witnesses 

By the end of the discovery, the parties will have gathered most of the key documents and factual background needed.

Depending on how well a party is able to have his or her legal positions supported by evidence, it may lead the parties to initiate settlement discussions or go to mediation.

8- Settlement Discussions 

Depending on the outcome of discovery and how each party feels about the strength of their case, the parties may engage in settlement discussions.

Most cases are settled outside of the courtroom and very few actually end up going to trial.

Once the parties have gathered all their evidence and have deposed various witnesses, they will have a much better idea of the strength of their case.

Also, since the parties will have spent time and money in dealing with the case, they may engage in settlement discussions for the sake of avoiding further legal costs and unpredictable judgment.

9- Mediation

Another method for the parties to settle their dispute is to go to mediation.

It is an alternative dispute resolution method that can be quite effective.

Mediation is a process where a neutral third party is appointed by the parties to hear their case and facilitate a settlement conversation.

The mediator will not have the authority to impose any obligation on the parties.

Also, the mediation process is confidential and the parties are not permitted to use the content and information they gather during the mediation process against the other in court.

Recommended article: What is commercial litigation

10- Pre-Trial

If the matter is not resolved after discovery, the parties will then move into the pre-trial efforts.

In this stage, the parties will have pre-trial conferences with the court where the court can set deadlines for the remaining activities to be done and even consider a tentative trial date.

The parties will start preparing for trial, review the case with their attorneys, review all the evidence, depositions, and facts gathered in the case.

11- Trial

A small percentage of cases end up going to trial.

The trial is the stage where the parties are in front of a judge or jury and make their case.

In some cases, the plaintiffs will represent themselves without the assistance of an attorney (they are called “pro se litigants”).

In many cases, the plaintiffs will have a lawyer present at trial handling their case, examining and cross-examining witnesses, and presenting legal arguments to the court.

Once the trial is over, the trial judge will be in a position to render a judgment on the merits of the case.

12- Appeals

The litigation process can continue beyond the issuance of the judgment in the first instance if one or both parties do not agree with the judgment.

To the extent a party has the right to file an appeal against the judgment, a party may decide to challenge the entire decision or part of the decision before the appeal court.

In that case, the parties will need to pursue their legal action before the appeals court.

When the appeal court issues its judgment, in most cases, it’s the end of the proceedings in court.

However, in a very small number of cases, the parties may have the ability to challenge the court of appeal’s decision before the Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter in the case.

13- Judgment Execution

Once a judgment is firm and final either because the parties chose not to appeal or that a higher level court has rendered a judgment, the parties will then need to comply with the judgment.

The “losing” party will need to pay the other party the sums owed or execute certain obligations.

In most cases, the parties will voluntarily execute their obligations imposed by the judgment.

However, in other cases, a party will need to execute the judgment by seizing the other party’s assets or taking other execution steps.

Once the obligations in the judgment are executed or respected, the litigation process ends.

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So there you have it folks!

What are the different phases of the litigation process?

In a nutshell, the litigation process refers to the different steps that you need to take to seek and enforce your legal rights.

Typically, the litigation process starts at the time a person or company suffers an injury and goes all the way to the execution of the judgment from the court.

The litigation process includes the injury, selection of attorney, investigation, demand letter, filing of a lawsuit, filing of pleadings, discovery, settlement discussions or mediation, pre-trial activities, trial, appeals, and the execution of the final judgment.

Now that you know what the litigation process is and how it works, good luck with your research!

Personal jurisdiction
Complaint and summons
Burden of proof
Alternative dispute resolution
Summary judgment
Service of process 
Interrogatories meaning
Pro se litigant 
Attorney fees

Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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