There are several different courts in which suits can be filed, including Federal District Court, State District Court, County Court, Justice of the Peace and Municipal courts.
Stages of the Lawsuit
Lawsuits typically follow a series of steps or stages as the suit develops.
A pre-litigation demand letter will commonly be forwarded to you or your attorney containing the basis of the potential suit and a demand for damages. If a settlement is not negotiated at this stage, a petition will be filed with the court .
The petition is a written application to the court stating the legal basis for the lawsuit and asking for specific action to be taken. The filing of this document initiates the lawsuit. The petition can be amended until seven days before trial.
The petition is served on the defendants by one of three ways: personal service--by sheriff, constable, or an individual hired by the plaintiff's attorney; certified mail; or publication--when the defendant cannot be located.
During the course of the lawsuit, several types of motions can be filed. "Motion to Transfer Venue" may be filed to request that the suit be transferred to a different court, if there is a legal basis for the request. "Motion for Summary Judgment" may be filed to ask that the suit be dismissed on various legal grounds. "Motion in Limine" may be filed prior to trial to ask for specific prejudicial issues to be barred from mention during the trial. "Motion for Continuance" may be filed if there is a conflict with a scheduled hearing date.
Different types of discovery will take place during the lawsuit. Written discovery may include initial disclosure in which certain pertinent information regarding the suit and documents containing pertinent information are exchanged by the parties' attorneys. Interrogatories and requests for production are other forms of written discovery. Interrogatories are questions directed to the other party requesting pertinent information regarding the suit. Requests for production are requests for documents containing pertinent information which are directed to the other party. Requests for admission are a series of allegations concerning the suit which the party is requested to admit or deny. Discovery can also take place in the form of oral depositions, in which the parties or witnesses are questioned by each attorney. The proceeding is recorded by a court reporter and transcribed. Deposition by written questions are used to secure pertinent records from entities such as employers and medical care providers.
In the final stages of the lawsuit process, trial preparation will take place. Settlement negotiations will be usually be ongoing at this point in an attempt to settle the case before it goes to trial. Mediation in which the two parties negotiate with the help of an impartial mediator can be undertaken at this time. The court will hold pretrial hearings to determine the status of the case and the attorneys will meet with their clients to prepare them for the trial.
The first step in the trial is to select a jury. After the jury is sworn in, evidence is presented by each party. After all evidence has been presented to the jury, final arguments are made by each party's attorney. The jury then deliberates and renders a decision.
Either party may file an appeal of the decision of the jury if there is sufficient legal grounds to do so.
There are several types of insurance which may provide coverage if you are sued.
Homeowner's insurance may cover damages incurred in accidents which occur in your home or on your property.
Automobile coverage can provide coverage for suits based on personal injury or property damage resulting from a motor vehicle accident.
Professional association insurance may provide coverage for professional liability.
General liability (umbrella) insurance may provide general liability coverage.
Representation in a lawsuit in connection with your job is usually determined by your employment. If you are sued in connection with your employment for a state university, the Attorney General's office may provide legal representation. You can also employ a personal attorney to provide your defense.
Contact an attorney immediately when you are served.
Keep your attorney fully informed of any pertinent information regarding the suit, including your current address and phone number.
Don't create documents regarding the suit without getting your attorney's advice beforehand.
Don't destroy anything relevant to the lawsuit.
Be careful who you talk to about the lawsuit. The opposing attorney or his/her staff may attempt to contact you for information concerning the suit.
Learn the names of your attorney's assistant and/or secretary and how to contact them.
Expect short response times and always be available.
Listen carefully as a witness.
Check with your attorney regarding any credit difficulties
which you encounter due to the suit.