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Civil litigation is started when the plaintiff or plaintiffs file a complaint with the court, then has the complaint served on the defendant or defendants. The defendant(s) have a certain number of days to file responsive pleadings. A responsive pleading might be an answer and counterclaim, or it may be a motion to dismiss the complaint for various reasons.
If the complaint is not dismissed, and once the answer and counterclaim have been filed, the case moves into the discovery phase. The plaintiffs and the defendants must provide each other with all matter related to the case, including contracts, bank statements, and other documents relating to the case, including certain correspondence and computer records.
Both sides may also serve interrogatories and requests for admissions to each other. These documents may be delivered to the opposing party either in paper format or scanned format. Often, to save paper, law firms scan the discovery onto a compact disk. The opposing party then has the ability to print the documents or keep them all in electronic format. If the parties cannot come to a settlement at some point during or just after the discovery phase, the case then goes to trial.