The First Steps In Civil Litigation
Regardless of the type of case you are involved in, and whether you are the plaintiff – the person suing, or the defendant – the person being sued, the steps to prepare for civil litigation are the same. You may be involved in civil litigation if you are involved in a family law case, certain bankruptcy cases, a probate case or foreclosure case.
Components of Litigation
Even though your case may settle out of court, you still have to prepare for litigation. There are several steps that lead to litigation, and often, to a settlement, including:
- If you are the defendant, you should file affirmative defenses with the answer to the complaint, or shortly thereafter.
- Both parties may have to attend depositions. Depositions are usually taken in person and are under oath. Counsel for the opposing parties will ask you several questions. Depending on the nature of the case, depositions may last less than an hour or several days.
- Both parties may have to respond to requests for production of documents. Each party must provide documentation of their case – evidence – to the other.
- Both parties may have to respond to interrogatories. Interrogatories are a series of written questions posed to each party. They must be responded to in a certain amount of time – generally 30 days, and the responses are notarized.
- Both parties may have to respond to requests for admissions. If opposing counsel needs more information about a specific document or answer on your interrogatories or in deposition, he or she may serve requests for admissions. In short, opposing counsel wants you to admit to a specific allegation.
While many of these documents look intimidating because they may be quite long, if you are organized, they are not difficult to respond to. This means you should have all documentation ready to label for each questions or request.
Because some law firms use Bates Stamps to label and identify documents, it’s better if you use sticky notes to label documents. For example, if request for production #5 asks for bank statements for the past three years, you should gather copies of all bank statements for all bank accounts. Arrange them in date order by bank. Put a year’s worth in a folder or clip them together and label them as “RFP #5 – Bank of America Checking – 2016.” This will save the attorney and his or her staff hours of time in preparing the documents.
For documents that have information on the front and rear of each page, you’ll need copies of both sides, even if that information is as simple as instructions. And, always send copies. Do not send your originals. You should make three copies:
- A copy for your attorney
- A copy for the opposing attorney requesting the documents
- A copy for you.
The copy for you so that you don’t lose your originals. You will be able to place your originals in a safe place and work with the copy. If additional plaintiffs and defendants are involved, you will have to make copies for each of those parties, too. Accident cases are famous for being complicated, only because there are so many attorneys involved. You should have your own attorney, your insurance company will have an attorney, the other person involved in the accident will have an attorney, as will his or her insurance company. Add two more attorneys for each person involved in the accident.
To save you money and to save your attorney time, you should provide all copies needed. Ask your attorney how many copies he or she needs.
Meetings with Your Attorney
Preparation for litigation also involves meetings with your attorney. You will most likely meet for at least an hour prior to a deposition so that your attorney may prepare you for the deposition. Your attorney will review the aspects of your case with you. He or she will also do this before any hearings or trials.
This benefits you and your attorney since your attorney will have the answers to the questions ahead of time, and this eases your nerves since you will know what to expect.
Contact Yardley Law
If you have been served with a lawsuit, or if you are considering filing a lawsuit, whether in family court or civil court, or if you are filing a complex bankruptcy, contact Yardley Law to set up a consultation.