Litigation Law




What is Litigation Law?

Litigation law refers to the rules and practices involved in resolving disputes in the court system. The term is often associated with tort cases, but litigation can come about in all kinds of cases, from contested divorces, to eviction proceedings. Likewise, most people think of litigation as synonymous with trial work, but the litigation process begins long before the first witness is called to testify. In fact, the vast majority of litigated cases never reach the inside of a courtroom.

For those looking to determine if a legal matter falls within the category of litigation, consider whether a lawsuit would solve the matter. If so, the case qualifies as litigation, and an attorney practicing in this area should be retained. If there is no potential for a lawsuit, because there is no controversy or because all of the parties are in agreement, then the issue cannot be described as litigation. Most non-litigation matters, such as property sales, estate planning, business formations, etc., are handled by attorneys practicing “transactional” law.

The best way to understand litigation law is to become familiar with the basic stages of a lawsuit. In most tort cases, such as a negligence lawsuit stemming from an automobile accident, the Civil Rules of Procedure in force in that jurisdiction will apply. These rules provide the legal requirements the parties must comply with at each step in the litigation process. Other types of cases may have their own specific procedural rules for the litigants to follow, but the same general outline will apply.

Demand Letters and Initial Negotiations

In a typical legal dispute, the parties will first discuss the matter with each other directly. Once it becomes clear that a common understanding will not be reached, one or both sides will retain an attorney. After investigating the case, the attorney will usually send the other party a “demand letter.” As the name suggests, this letter describes what the party receiving the letter must do to avoid further legal action. The letter may demand the payment of a certain amount of money, the halting of a particular activity, and so on.

Parties who receive a demand letter from the opposing side may respond by offering to do or pay less than requested, or they may issue demands of their own, or they may decide to do nothing at all. At this juncture, the future litigants have no obligation to cooperate and try to reach an agreement. But with the expense and uncertainty of a lawsuit looming over them, many people opt to play it safe and settle the matter informally at this stage.

Filing a Lawsuit and Conducting Discovery

If a dispute cannot be put to rest through the initial negotiations, then one party will file a formal lawsuit. If either party has not yet hired an attorney, now is the time to do so. The technical rules of filing and responding to a lawsuit are complex, and even small mistakes can have a drastic effect on the ability of the litigants to obtain relief or successfully defend their interests. For example, some personal injury claims have a statute of limitation as short as 12 months. Failure to properly file suit within that time will permanently bar the plaintiff from recovering compensation.

Shortly after a lawsuit is filed, the parties will conduct discovery. Discovery refers to the mandatory exchange of documents and other information between the parties. It will often represent the bulk of the litigation work performed throughout the entire case. Preparing and responding to discovery requests is tedious, and in the field of litigation, tedious means expensive. Besides the exchange of physical evidence relating to the case, discovery also involves the deposing (formal interviewing) of witnesses.

Motions, Trial, and Appeal

The next step in the litigation process is for the parties to review everything they learned in discovery, at which point the defendant will likely file a motion for summary judgment. Basically, the defendant argues to the judge that even if the plaintiff’s factual contentions are true, the law does not recognize the situation as one in which the defendant will be held responsible. If the judge agrees, the case is over and the plaintiff loses. If the judge denies the motion, the case will proceed to trial.

Finally, after what can amount to years in the pre-trial stages of litigation, the merits of the case will be heard by the judge or a jury. Witnesses will be called to testify, evidentiary exhibits will be submitted, and the attorneys for both sides will present argument as to why their clients deserve to win. A jury trial can potentially stretch on for weeks, and when it is over, the losing party will still have the right to appeal, which is almost certain to happen if a large money judgment is awarded to the winner.

Hiring a Lawyer Provides an Advantage

Even in small disputes, an experienced litigator can give one party the upper hand. If you have been sued, or if you need to enforce your legal rights, merely hiring a lawyer may lead the other side to think twice. And if the case does proceed to litigation, your lawyer will be there, fighting for you every step of the way.

Copyright HG.org

Know Your Rights!

  • Can I File a Lawsuit Without a Lawyer

    It is possible to file a lawsuit without a lawyer. This article will tell you how.

  • Common Tricks Attorneys Play in Civil Litigation

    Regardless of how much merit your case may have, a good litigator can derail your case, even before trial, using a few procedural tricks. Following are a few of them, how you can use them like an expert litigator, and things you can do to fight back.

  • How Appeals Work

    An understanding of the appeal process and what it really means to take an appeal can be crucial to your success at this point in your legal dispute.

  • How Do I Get the Other Side to Pay My Attorney Fees if I Win a Lawsuit?

    It is one of the most common questions attorneys receive: how does one sue to get back their attorney fees in a lawsuit? Whether a family law case, a contract dispute, or a tort action, many believe they are entitled to recover their attorney fees from the other party if they win. But, is it that simple?

  • I Won My Lawsuit, Now How Do I Collect?

    So, you have won your lawsuit, but the other side has not simply cut you a check. What do you do? How can you go about collecting your judgment? These are a few tips to help you with the collections process.

  • Is a Polygraph Test Admissible as Evidence?

    Have you ever wondered why, in a system of justice that relies so heavily upon people telling the truth, every witness is not strapped to a polygraph machine (i.e., a lie detector)? It is a logical question that leads to others about how interrogations and investigations are conducted when polygraphs are used. So, is a polygraph test admissible as evidence?

  • Protect Your Assets From Judgment

    If you have already been sued, it is probably too late to do anything to protect your assets. But, if you are a planner and looking to protect your assets before you have a problem, this article is for you.

  • Suggestions for Those About to Take Part in a Deposition

    The purpose of a discovery deposition is for an attorney or a party in a case to find out as much as they can about the facts of a lawsuit. This guide should help you understand how to behave, what is at stake, and what your obligations are.

  • Understanding E-Discovery

    E-Discovery's effects on litigation are beginning to spread to even the most simple cases, requiring more and more people to form at least a basic understanding of what it is, how it works, and what their obligations could be in a lawsuit.

  • What is a Class Action?

    We have probably all received one of those notices in the mail advising us that we are part of a class action lawsuit. Maybe it requires some sort of registration or maybe you do not have to do anything. A few months or years later you receive a small check and never hear anything else about it. What was that? Did you do the right thing? Could you have gotten more money? It is really not as scary or complicated as it might seem.

  • What is a Standard of Review in an Appeal?

    When one files the appeal, they are asked to describe which standard of review they believe will apply to the higher court's review of the case. So what is a standard of review and why does it matter?

  • What is an Attorney-Client Privilege

    Whenever someone hires an attorney, an attorney-client relationship is formed, and a privilege is created. But what is the attorney-client privilege? What makes the relationship between a lawyer and a client different from other professional relationships?

  • What is Discovery in a Civil Case?

    Discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party investigates the facts of a case, through the rules of civil procedure, by obtaining evidence from the opposing party and others by means of discovery devices including requests for answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents and things, requests for admissions, and depositions.

  • What is Hearsay?

    What is hearsay? Is it admissible in court? Are there exceptions?

  • When to Negotiate and When to Litigate

    One of the most challenging decisions parties often face in a legal proceeding is knowing when to negotiate and when to litigate. Should they slug it out until the bitter end to get that huge judgment they think they will win, or should they be trying to resolve the dispute, avoid expense, and work things out? Or, are they coming to the table too soon? Is it going to be seen as a sign of weakness?

  • Why Does a Lawsuit Take So Long?

    One of the most common questions attorneys get while representing a client is “when will this case be over?” This is an obvious question given that the attorney probably costs money, the lawsuit takes time and energy, and living with worries about the outcome of the case can be a constant source of stress. Still, lawsuits take time, and parties who expect a case to be over in a few weeks are usually disappointed. So, why does a lawsuit take so long?

Articles on HG.org Related to Litigation

  • Expert Witness: Scientific Data and Its Use in the Courtroom
    Expert witnesses are often contacted for their knowledge and expertise in a field of study. This information is used to explain to the judge or jury panel that certain actions occurred, and to the best of the knowledge of the expert that his or her conclusion is the outcome of the incident.
  • False or Deceptive Competitor Advertising Hurting Your Bottom Line?
    There are resources and options available for business owners when competitors undercut pricing by selling inferior goods or services.
  • Mandatory Arbitration in Real Estate Disputes
    Real estate deals often see conflict arising based on the factors of sellers and buyers not being able to resolve the matter between them. However, certain elements of the case may cause a mandatory arbitration being necessary. The most common form of mandatory procedures impacting a claim is state and federal laws pertaining to the issue at hand.
  • When Multiple Expert Witnesses are Needed for a Case
    Hiring multiple expert witnesses for a single case is beneficial when the matter is either complicated or includes more than one single aspect of a claim. This may occur through using economic impact combined with a car accident, personal injury cases and medical experts for assistance as well as a variety of similar circumstances.
  • How an Expert Witness Explains Why Road Construction Causes Road Incidents
    Road construction zones are often dangerous to drivers on interstates, highways and freeways. The rate of higher speeds and more vehicles is greater in these areas than on regular roads or smaller highways.
  • Expert Witness Explains Electrical Accidents and Incident Reconstruction
    Electrical accidents often require reconstruction of the incident so that the judge or members of the jury understand what occurred during the accident. This also means that an expert witness is needed to detail how the injuries affect the victim.
  • Can My Lawyer Refuse to Continue with My Case Unless I Pay in Full?
    Sometimes during the middle of representation, a lawyer and client may reach an impasse due to billing issues. In some cases, a lawyer may be permitted to withdraw from a case and stop work. However, there are special rules about this matter that must be closely followed in order to avoid ethical issues.
  • Communicating Successfully with Expert Witnesses
    Communication is the key to all successful relationships, and this is best seen with business and legal contacts. Court cases move fast in certain situations, and greater chances of a positive outcome of the case often rests on how best communication is achieved between all parties involved.
  • What is Domicile in Divorce Cases and Why Does it Matter?
    Residency of where a spouse moves to after the couple have split is important when it affects a divorce case. Some states require the individual to remain in the same state for the duration of the divorce proceedings before he or she is permitted to vacate to a better suited location.
  • Expert Witness Reports: Skillfully Avoiding the Pitfalls
    The use of an expert witness is often a matter of a successful or disastrous outcome in a court case.
  • All Litigation Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Litigation including: alternative dispute resolution, antitrust and trade regulation, appellate practice, arbitration, business litigation, civil litigation, class actions, commercial litigation, corporate litigation, financial litigation, mediation, pharmaceutical litigation, product liability litigation, unfair competition.

Litigation Law - US

  • ABA - Courts and Legal Procedures

    Law and the courts are everywhere—on the front page news, in best-selling thrillers, on Court TV and network shows about lawyers. Famous trials are a great subject, full of human drama, but how many of us really understand the work that courts do and how they operate? Here’s a quick primer, with links that will help you go more deeply into the subject.

  • ABA - Section of Litigation

    The ABA Section of Litigation is the premier association for lawyers involved in litigation and trial practice. More than 50,000 lawyers representing countless areas of practice turn to the ABA Section of Litigation for member-only access to the latest news, information, and thinking on legal strategy, bringing all sides to one place to form a comprehensive view of the profession.

  • Appellate Procedure - Overview

    Appellate procedure consists of the rules and practices by which appellate courts review trial court judgments. Appellate review performs several functions, including: the correction of errors committed by the trial court, development of the law, achieving a uniform approach across courts, and the pursuit of justice, more generally.

  • Civil Procedure - Overview

    Broadly speaking, civil procedure consists of the rules by which courts conduct civil trials. "Civil trials" concern the judicial resolution of claims by one individual or group against another and are to be distinguished from "criminal trials," in which the state prosecutes an individual for violation of criminal law.

  • Class Action Lawsuits

    The purported purpose of class action lawsuits is to give the common man the ability to take on the largest corporate or private entities (who can afford the very best legal services) and have a chance of redressing the wrong done by these entities.

  • Class Action Litigation Information

    Class Action Litigation Information is a service provided by Timothy E. Eble, P.A. This website is maintained to provide a useful legal research source for attorneys. It is also maintained as a free service to assist the public in understanding class action litigation, government, and the legal system. The user should find links to numerous sources of information related to many questions that arise in the context of class action or "representative" litigation.

  • Federal Class Action Fairness Act 2005

    The Judicial Conference's Advisory Committee on Civil Rules requested that the FJC (Federal Judicial Center) study the effect of the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA) on the federal courts. The Federal Judicial Center has accordingly issued periodic reports that examine the subsequent changes in the number of class actions filed in the federal court system.

  • Federal Court Rules and Policies

    Federal court rules and policies are essential to carrying out the mission of the federal Judiciary. The national policy-making body for the federal courts, the Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal rules of practice that are used in all federal courts, and the Code of Conduct for judges, which addresses matters of judicial ethics are all essential to court operations and maintaining a fair and impartial federal judiciary.

  • Rules of Evidence - Overview

    Rules of evidence are, as the name indicates, the rules by which a court determines what evidence is admissible at trial. In the U.S., federal courts follow the Federal Rules of Evidence, while state courts generally follow their own rules.

  • The Supreme Court of the United States

    The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and such number of Associate Justices as may be fixed by Congress.

  • Trial Practice: An Overview

    Only a small percentage of legal disputes are litigated in a court. When litigation does occur, several areas govern the lawyers' conduct of the trial or trial practice: Criminal procedure, Civil procedure, Appellate procedure, Legal ethics.

Litigation Law - International

Organizations Related to Litigation Law

Publications Related to Litigation Law




Find a Lawyer

Find a Local Lawyer