Lawsuits begin with the plaintiff filing a
complaint in a court of law. After the initial
complaint is filed the typical lawsuit progresses as
After the court receives the complaint, they notify
the defendant of the facts of the complaint and the
time frame in which an answer must be filed.
The defendant may elect to file any number of
pleadings asking that the complaint be dismissed,
asking for a change of venue (location) or challenging
the court's jurisdiction over the matter.
After pleadings have been heard and answered, and
the defendant has filed an answer to the complaint,
the two sides may engage in discovery. During
discover both side provide the other with copies of
evidence and witness statements that they will use at
trail to prove their case. If the evidence
overwhelmingly supports either the plaintiff or the
defendant, the to sides may settle the case before it
goes to trial.
After discovery, the two sides prepare for trial.
The parties may ask that the trial be decided by a
jury or may just ask for a bench trial where the judge
decides the case. A jury trial is a much more
complicated and expensive process but may be requested
if the stakes are high.
The plaintiff then presents the witnesses and
evidence and evidence to support the complaint and the
defendant may present present a defense with witnesses
and other evidence. The burden of proof at the
trial is generally on the plaintiff. The
defendant may also present various motions throughout
the trial to convince the judge to dismiss the case or
not accept some of the plaintiff's evidence or
After both sides have presented their case the case
goes to the jury or judge for a decision. They
may come back with a judgment in favor of the
plaintiff or find in favor of the defendant and
dismiss the complaint.
At any time until a decision has been returned, the
two parties may reach a settlement and end the trial.
The plaintiff may also drop the complaint at any time
provided that the defendant has not filed a
After the court has reached a final decision,
either party normally may appeal the decision to a
higher court, if they wish to do so. The
appellate court may decide to hear the case again or
may not depending upon whether there were important
legal issues or court errors it wants to review.
Appeals may go all the way to the State or Federal
Supreme Court if the court will hear the case.
If a judgment is handed down for an injunction or
action, the court and the authorities will enforce the
injunction or action.
If the judgment includes a monetary award, the
defendant may simply pay the judgment. A
corporation with large cash assets is usually good to
pay the judgment. A smaller entity, such as a
person, may be a different matter. The judgment
holder may attach wages, bank accounts and other cash
assets. Sometimes liens may be placed on real
estate. Often the defendant with the judgment
against them will hide cash assets or will have moved
them to a friend or relative. In this case, the
judgment holder can summon the defendant into court
and required under oath to disclose the location of
bank accounts and other assets. Quite often,
cash and assets have been well hidden or there are
none and the judgment goes uncollected. Some
collection agencies will attempt to collect a judgment
for a large fee, of course.