When you hear the word “lawsuit,” many people think of the television version of lawyers and court proceedings. The world of real lawyers and lawsuits is very different from the exciting television version.
Criminal and Civil Legal Actions Compared
A “criminal” action is brought by the government who represents the “People” against an individual charged with a crime or public offense. Punishment is sought against the individual charged with the crime.
A “civil” action is a legal process that is not a criminal action. Typically, a civil lawsuit is between private individuals. The case is brought to enforce or protect rights and to award relief for the actions.
Beginning a Civil Lawsuit
A dispute has occurred. The parties should try to negotiate a solution. If the parties are unsuccessful in solving their problem, then they may choose to file a lawsuit.
When an individual or business claims that harm, loss or injury from an individual or business, a lawsuit can be filed to have the court make a decision about the interests, rights and remedies involved. If the problem cannot be informally resolved, a written Complaint is filed with the proper court. The person or business making the claim is the “Plaintiff.” The person against whom the claim is made is the “Defendant.”
A civil “Complaint” and “Summons” are the documents that start a civil lawsuit by summarizing, for the court, the Plaintiff’s claim for relief from harm, loss or damages caused or the Defendant’s wrongful conduct. The Complaint outlines Plaintiff’s facts and legal theories, which are called “causes of action”, and includes supporting facts and requested relief.
A “Summons” is filed with the Complaint. A Summons is the document that tells the Defendant that they are being sued and what must be done to do to respond to the Complaint. The Summons, Complaint and other accompanying documents must be properly served on the Defendant.
When the Defendant has been served with these documents, they have a specific amount of time to respond or they will not be able to respond and defend themselves in the action. That Defendant generally files an Answer to the Complaint. There are other types of responses that may be filed by a Defendant including a Cross Complaint and various motions.
Eventually, a judge or jury will review the applicable facts and law, decide what happened in the case and then apply the law to the facts to make a decision. Based on the analysis of the law and facts, the judge or jury will issue a final “judgment” and determine the legal consequences of the parties’ actions and award relief for the consequences.
Representation by a Skilled Attorney is Essential
It is extremely difficult to handle a lawsuit without being represented by an attorney. Judges hold unrepresented parties responsible for the same legal standards that attorneys must uphold. That means that an unrepresented party must understand the law and procedures involved in a lawsuit. Most non-lawyers do not have this kind of background. Contact us at (925) 463-9000 or send an email to get help with your real estate, business or construction related lawsuit.
Lisa Wills of the Law Offices of Lisa D. Wills is a skilled attorney working in the areas of business, real estate and construction transactions, disputes and lawsuits in Pleasanton, California helping solve problems and protect rights. Contact Lisa Wills at the Law Offices of Lisa D. Wills or call (925) 463-9000 for assistance with your legal issues.