Skip Navigation

04.10.24   |   Insights

What is Civil Litigation? A Guide to Resolving Legal Disputes

Share this

Legal matters that escalate beyond negotiations and discussions often result in litigation. For many, this term conjures images of intense courtroom battles, legal jargon, and dramatic confrontations. While these elements might be part of the process, civil litigation encompasses structured legal procedures designed to resolve disputes between individuals, businesses, or other entities seeking monetary damages or other remedies.

Understanding Civil Litigation

At its core, civil litigation refers to the legal process that occurs when one party, known as the plaintiff, seeks to hold another party, the defendant, accountable for some type of harm or wrongdoing. In pursuit of justice or compensation, the plaintiff may file a lawsuit in a court of law. This lawsuit will outline the legal basis for the claim and can cover a wide array of legal disputes, including, but not limited to:

  • Personal Injury Claims: These involve injuries resulting from accidents, such as car crashes, slip-and-fall incidents, or medical malpractice.
  • Contract Disputes: When parties disagree over the terms or performance of a contract, such as the failure to perform required services or deliver goods, breach of warranty, or non-payment for services.
  • Property Disputes: This includes conflicts over real estate, boundary lines, landlord-tenant issues, or property damage.
  • Probate Disputes: These arise when there are disagreements or conflicts regarding the distribution of a person’s estate after death.
  • Employment Disputes: Matters related to wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, or wage disputes fall under this category.

The Civil Litigation Process

The civil litigation process can vary depending on the nature of the case, and sometimes cases can be resolved without the need to file a lawsuit. However, if a lawsuit is filed, the following depicts a general overview of that process:

  • Pleadings: The process begins with the plaintiff filing a complaint, outlining the facts of the case and the legal basis for their claim. The defendant then responds with an answer, admitting or denying the allegations, or files another type of responsive pleading, known as a motion to dismiss.
  • Discovery: During the discovery phase, both parties in a lawsuit exchange information to build their cases. It involves gathering evidence through methods such as requests for admissions, interrogatories, requests for the production of documents, and depositions.
  • Pre-Trial Motions: Before the trial, either party can file motions to request specific actions from the court. These could include motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, or motions to exclude evidence.
  • Mediation: Before trial, the parties may sometimes resolve their disputes through mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR). During the ADR process, a neutral third party helps to facilitate communication and negotiation between the parties in hopes of reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.  
  • Trial: If the case proceeds to trial, both parties present their arguments, evidence, and witnesses before a judge or jury. The judge or jury then decides the outcome based on the presented facts and applicable law.
  • Post-Trial Motions and Appeals: After the judge or jury reaches a verdict, the losing party may file post-trial motions, such as motions for a new trial or motions to set aside the verdict. If unsatisfied with the outcome, parties can also appeal to a higher court.

Benefits of Civil Litigation

Civil litigation serves several important purposes in our legal system:

  • Fair Resolution: It provides a structured process for resolving disputes fairly, allowing parties to present their cases and evidence to a neutral party – a judge or a jury.
  • Legal Precedent: Court decisions in civil cases can establish legal precedents that guide future similar cases, ensuring consistency and predictability in the law.
  • Deterrence: Knowing that they could be held accountable in a court of law encourages individuals and entities to act responsibly and within the bounds of the law.
  • Encourages Settlement: Civil litigation may encourage parties to negotiate grievances to avoid the cost and uncertainties associated with prolonged litigation or trial.
  • Compensation: Civil litigation offers plaintiffs a means to seek compensation for the ways in which they were wronged or suffered damages, losses, or injuries due to the actions of others.


While civil litigation may seem daunting, understanding its purpose and process can help demystify this aspect of the legal system. Whether you’re a plaintiff seeking justice or a defendant defending your rights, the principles of civil litigation ensure a fair and orderly resolution to legal disputes. From personal injury claims to complex business disagreements, this process remains a cornerstone of our legal framework, upholding the principles of justice and accountability in our society.  

The attorneys at Critchfield are available to assist you if you are involved in a dispute that may lead to litigation.  Please feel free to contact Amanda Webber or any of our other litigators.

Ask a question

Fill out the form and someone will contact you within 1 business day.

Contact Us