About the Civil Litigation Process in California
Working with the Civil Litigation Attorneys at Riverside County’s Schlecht, Shevlin & Shoenberger, A Law Corporation
Will my case settle or go to trial? While this is a very common question, there is no simple answer. The fact of the matter is that the ultimate decision rests with you. With decades of experience litigating cases throughout California, at Schlecht, Shevlin & Shoenberger, our attorneys have represented countless businesses and individuals in both negotiated settlements and full-blown trials and appeals. In each case we constantly keep our clients up to speed, allowing them to make informed decisions about maintaining a cost-effective litigation strategy that serves their bottom line.
What to Expect During Your Case
That all said, most lawsuits settle. Even when the parties are in fundamental disagreement, they often see the writing on the wall and prefer to negotiate a compromise rather than spend years in litigation. However, in complex civil litigation, getting to a point where both parties are willing to settle can itself take months or years, with the parties’ litigation running a parallel track along the way. Roughly speaking, the following are the basic stages of civil litigation—keeping in mind that the parties are free to reach a settlement at any point in time:
- Pleadings – Once the plaintiff files a Complaint, the defendant generally has 30 days to file a responsive pleading, called an Answer. However, there are certain circumstances where a pre-Answer filing may be appropriate—or even necessary in order to preserve certain rights.
- Discovery – Discovery is the process where the parties exchange documents, request written statements (interrogatories), and take depositions of representatives and witnesses.
- Pretrial Motions – Although listed here after discovery, pretrial motions practice is an ongoing process that can begin during the pleadings stage and run all the way up to the eve of trial. Motions are requests to the court, and can seek anything from compelling discovery to having the opposing party’s case dismissed.
- Trial – Following pre-trial, the parties’ attorneys will present their clients’ cases in court. This generally consists of opening statements, presentation of evidence through witnesses, closing arguments, and issuance of a decision by the judge or jury. Depending on the case, trial can take anywhere from one day to several weeks.
- Appeal – Following the close of trial, any party unsatisfied with the result has a limited window of time in which to file an appeal.
- Enforcement of Judgment – After all appeals are resolved, the prevailing party may still need to take further legal action to enforce the court’s judgment if the non-prevailing party fails to willingly comply.
Making Effective Use of Alternative Dispute Resolution
In many cases, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) – mediation or arbitration – provides a cost-effective alternative to traditional courtroom litigation. Our attorneys have many years of experience serving as both advocates and mediators in ADR.