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To get more comfortable with the litigation process and some of the legal terminology, below is an overview what to expect in your civil lawsuit. Of course, if you have any questions or want more details, you can contact PersanteZuroweste at (727) 796-7666.
Our clients often ask us how long their lawsuit will take to reach a resolution. Unfortunately, it is impossible to estimate a timeframe. Each case is unique and timing depends on a variety of factors including the complexity of the issues in the case, the amount of discovery, and the court’s availability.
The first step in bringing or defending a lawsuit is the consultation. This is your opportunity to tell your story to us. You are encouraged to bring every relevant document to the consultation.
Typically, lawsuits are not brought immediately after the consultation. In drafting the Complaint, attorneys and their clients often create many drafts to make sure the allegations are scrupulously accurate. Without getting too technical, the Complaint explains why the court has the authority to hear the case (jurisdiction), where the case should be litigated (venue), the difference causes of action or legal theories for the lawsuit, and how much the Plaintiff has been harmed (damages).
Once the Complaint is finalized and filed with the Court, the Plaintiff in Florida state courts must serve the Complaint on the Defendant(s) within 120 days.
Once the Defendant has been served, in Florida state courts he or she has 20 days to respond to the Complaint. This is called the first responsive pleading. The response is either an Answer, which may contain legal defenses to the lawsuit (affirmative defenses), or a motion in lieu of the Answer, such as a Motion to Dismiss. If a Motion to Dismiss is filed, the Court must determine whether the Complaint states a legal cause of action. An answer is exactly what it sounds like. The Defendant must answer every allegation by admitting or denying each paragraph in the Complaint.
The discovery phase is critical to winning cases and can usually take one year or more to complete. This is the stage of the lawsuit where both parties exchange information. The purpose of discovery is to give each party the opportunity to fully understand the opposing party’s argument and evidence in the case. There are many different methods to receive information in a lawsuit. The most common are:
Generally a trial is the opportunity for your case to be heard. Trials can either be decided by a Judge or Jury. Trials range in length from a few hours to several weeks. Generally, the Plaintiff puts on his or her case first. The Defense puts on its case, and then the Plaintiff is allowed to respond. The nature and complexity of trials depends on the types of claims involved and the facts of each case.
Once the trial is complete, it usually does not mean the case is over. Depending on the case, sometimes there are additional motions to be heard and sometimes the losing party will file an appeal.
After trial, a party may ask a higher court to review the trial court proceeding. If an appeal is taken, each party submits a written argument, called a brief along with evidence from the trial. Generally, the appellate court will review the trial court for legal error. Appeals can be rather quick, or take a year or more.