A Litigation Primer

Much of the publicity on legal matters focuses on the verdict or end result of a lawsuit; many individuals are oblivious about the litigation process itself.

As the centerpiece of our justice system, litigation is a broad and encompassing term that describes the process of preparing and presenting a case at trial. While most often litigation is used in reference to a trial, this process also includes gathering information in preparation for a case, negotiating and settling. Through litigation, individuals and businesses can resolve a variety of disputes involving issues such as insurance coverage, trademark infringement, personal injury and contract disputes. If you are involved in a legal dispute and think you may need to file a lawsuit, or if you have been sued, contact The Law Firm of Peters & Wasilefski. Based in Harrisburg, and serving throughout Pennsylvania, our attorneys can guide you through the process and provide you with qualified representation at every step.

With countless legal issues being litigated in courts today, it is important for businesses and individuals to understand the critical points of the litigation process. This article explains how the process of filing pleadings, obtaining discovery and seeking summary judgment shape the litigation process and how cases can be won, lost and ultimately resolved before they go to trial.

Pretrial Matters

Pleadings set forth the initial claims, allegations and defenses and highlight factual and legal issues to be brought before the court. These documents also help to narrow and define the issues that will ultimately be litigated. Pleadings must be carefully written and, at times, revised to properly establish a party's legal claims.

Discovery is the process of obtaining relevant information from the other party through the exchange of documents, testimony and related information. Discovery allows each party to learn about and analyze facts relevant to the case. The parties have available to them several methods for obtaining information.

Summary judgment is a pretrial motion in which a party seeks a decision on one or more issues in the case, thus making a trial unnecessary. Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment will be granted if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The basic idea behind summary judgment is that issues based on undisputed facts do not require a trial. If the facts are undisputed, there are no issues for the jury to decide, and the court can issue a judgment based on the facts set forth in the pleadings.

Trial And Appeal

The actual trial is the stage of litigation with which people are generally the most familiar. Many people have seen dramatizations of the courtroom and trial in movies and on television shows, though often these scenes are far removed from "real life" trials. The trial is the time for both sides to present their arguments and facts to the judge and/or jury. The parties can call witnesses for questioning, cross-examine the opposing party's witnesses and introduce exhibits, which are pieces of evidence generally obtained during the discovery process. The attorneys will make opening statements and closing arguments and then the case will be sent to the judge or jury for a decision. If the losing party believes that an error was made in the trial court, the party may be able to appeal the final judgment.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a term that refers to settling legal disputes without going to trial. There are a number of different forms of alternative dispute resolution including arbitration, mediation, summary jury trials, mini trials and moderated settlement conferences. Often ADR is less expensive and less time consuming than traditional litigation.

Speak to an attorney

Litigation can be complex. If you have a legal dispute or if you have been injured, you may be considering filing a lawsuit. Or, perhaps you have just been named as a defendant in a lawsuit. What do you do now? A trial lawyer at The Law Firm of Peters & Wasilefski can help you avoid the pitfalls of the litigation process and prepare your case for trial.

To learn more, call us at 717-260-3483 or 866-830-1116, or reach us online.