Strategic Defense For Civil Disputes
Civil law disputes include almost any case that is not criminal. They can arise in any number of ways in our daily lives, from a contractor not completing a job as required to a neighbor putting on an addition that blocks your view or somehow harms your property’s value. If you are involved in a legal dispute, it is important to have an experienced attorney working on your behalf, providing advice and guidance about your options, which may include filing a lawsuit.
At Norris Law, we have the experience and skill to handle a wide range of civil legal disputes. We can evaluate the facts of your case, and determine what the best course of action is, from attempting to solve the issue without going to court to filing a lawsuit and taking the case to a jury.
Two Court Systems For Civil Law Cases
Civil disputes are handled in one of the two court systems:
- Small Claims Court: Cases worth less than $5,000 are filed in Small Claims Court. Attorneys can appear in small claims court on behalf of their clients, and either party can request a jury trial. These cases are governed by a different procedure, known as Small Claims or Summary Procedure, with different time limits and rules than in other civil litigation cases.
- Florida Courts: Civil cases worth more than $5,000 are filed in a Florida court in the county where the dispute occurred. Attorneys usually represent the parties in a civil case, although parties can represent themselves. These cases are governed by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Cases can be tried before a judge or a jury, and may result in monetary awards or orders for someone to do or stop doing something.
Civil law cases can cover a wide variety of issues, including:
- Personal injury cases
- Business law issues
- Family law issues
The Civil Litigation Process
A civil lawsuit often involves many steps, and requires the parties to meet deadlines and follow specific rules.
The typical civil litigation process is outlined below:
A complaint is filed with the court by the Plaintiff (the party bringing the lawsuit). This document sets out the claims that the Plaintiff has against the Defendant. A complaint must be served on the Defendant, which means that he has to receive a copy. This can be accomplished through personal service (handing a copy of the lawsuit to the Defendant), mail or a number of other ways.
The Defendant has to respond to the Complaint with an Answer within a certain period of time. The Answer can deny some or all of the Plaintiff’s claims, admit to some or all of the claims and bring new claims against the Plaintiff.
If the Defendant does not file an Answer, the court may enter a judgment against the Defendant. This is known as a default judgment, and is similar to a forfeit: the Plaintiff wins because the Defendant did not respond.
If the Defendant responds, the parties move to the next phase: discovery. This is when the parties exchange information about the case through written questions, producing documents and taking depositions. A deposition is a process where a witness is asked questions by an attorney after being sworn in, and the entire process is recorded and transcribed by a court reporter. It is similar to being in court, except that a judge is not present.
The parties may agree to resolve their issues through negotiation, mediation or arbitration. Courts are usually not involved in the settlement process; the parties can agree to a resolution on their own, and ask for the case to be dismissed.
Parties may also file documents known as motions to have the case dismissed or to have certain evidence excluded from the trial. A Plaintiff may also file a motion to ask the judge to rule in their favor before the case gets to trial.
If the case is not dismissed or settled, the case can go to trial. The parties may choose to have the case heard by a judge or a jury.
At trial, each party has an opportunity to present witnesses, introduce evidence and make arguments.
Once all of the evidence and arguments have been heard, the judge or the jury makes a decision. The verdict is entered either for the Plaintiff or the Defendant.
If a party is unhappy with the decision, they can file an appeal to ask a higher court to overturn the decision.
A Complex Process
The civil litigation process can be lengthy, taking anywhere from six months to many years to resolve a case. It involves many steps, and the parties must adhere to complicated rules. That is why in most situations, it is advisable to hire an experienced Florida civil disputes attorney, particularly where important legal rights are at stake or a lot of money is involved.
Our firm is adept at handling all types of civil litigation and will fight for you both in and out of court. We offer free initial consultations, where we will evaluate your case and help you understand all of your options. From there, we will aggressively litigate the case to protect your legal rights and ensure that you get the best possible outcome.
Discuss Your Civil Suit In A Free Consultation
At Norris Law, we have experience in numerous civil law matters. We can evaluate the facts of your case, and determine what the best course of action is, from an out-of-court settlement, to filing a lawsuit and taking the case to a jury. Contact us online or call for answers to your civil dispute questions in a free initial consultation with a Tallahassee lawyer.