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Filing a Lawsuit? Here’s What to Expect from Litigation

By March 18, 2024No Comments
person filling a case

Filing a lawsuit and going to trial is a stressful situation for most people. Additionally, the process can be long and tedious at times. Here is what you need to know about the litigation process.

The Lawsuit Filing Process

In legal cases in California, the lawsuit process begins with the filing of a complaint. The complaint is a legal document explaining to the defendant why the plaintiff is suing them. Once you have filed a complaint with the court, the defendant must be served with it.

After service of the lawsuit, the defendant must file an answer or demurrer within 30 days. An answer says yes or no to the allegations in the complaint, while a demurrer is a request to dismiss the lawsuit altogether.

The answer or demurrer starts the third step, which is discovery. Discovery provides both parties the chance to ask for admissions, evidence, or answers to interrogatories, which are questions about the case. Discovery can start within 10 days of serving the complaint, and once discovery starts, the parties have 30 days to respond to the questions and requests.

Generally after conducting discovery, the parties have the option to make a motion for summary judgment. This step allows the judge to look at the current facts and determine if the case is clearly won by one party or the other.

If the case is not a candidate for a summary judgment, or if a party disagrees with the judge’s decision, the case may go to trial. The goal of trials is to determine which party’s facts carry the most truth and whether or not the defendant is responsible for the actions alleged in the complaint. Generally, the plaintiff carries the burden of proof in these cases and must present evidence first, with the defense following. After all evidence is presented, the judge or jury will deliberate and reach a verdict.

When Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?

The answer to this question depends on the circumstances of the case. Several types of cases in California, such as breach of contract cases, are subject to statutes of limitations. These are time limits within which a lawsuit must be filed and range from 90 days to 10 years. 

What Is Discovery?

Discovery is the part of a lawsuit that allows both parties to request information and evidence from the other. It involves questions, requests for admissions, and requests for the production of evidence. Both parties have a legal responsibility to answer the requests made in discovery.

During discovery, both parties must ask for discoverable responses. Discoverable items mean items or questions relevant to the case. If one party refuses to deliver information claiming it is not discoverable, the courts may get involved to force the delivery of the response.

How Long Until I Go to Trial?

The time frame between filing a complaint and going to trial varies depending on the complexity of the case and how quickly the other party responds to questions and discovery requests.

Every state is different, but in California, the timeline from filing a complaint to going to trial can be at least a year if not longer, depending on the case. To get through the process as simply as possible and with the right guidance, contact the team at Lanak & Hanna for help.

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