Your Basic Guide to Litigation

Litigation is best defined as the legal processes that surround the enforcement and defense of an entity’s legal rights. Typically litigation refers to general scenarios that happen in court, usually between two parties, in front of a judge. The plaintiff is the party who is declaring that their rights were violated. The defendant is the party that the plaintiff is accusing for violation of said rights. 

Litigation in law is a term used to describe a broad range of legal actions and activities. When referring to almost any legal matter that involves court related processes, such as trials and hearings – litigation is usually involved in varying capacities.

Additionally, litigation is involved in processes such as:

  • Court hearings.
  • Arbitration.
  • Restraining orders.
  • Custody related orders.

Litigation situations are resolved in courts and depend upon a final decision made by the judge of the court where the matters are being evaluated. Additionally, if one side elects to appeal a ruling made in court, litigation will be an integral part of resolving the appeal. It should be known that settlements may be proposed at any time throughout the litigation process and if accepted, there may be no need for further action on behalf of either party.

The Relationship Between Lawsuits and Litigation

Simply stated, litigation is the processes and actions that are used to reach a resolution in a lawsuit. All lawsuits require some degree of litigation in order to resolve the matter. 

A lawsuit is the action by the plaintiff to complain to a court about a matter. Litigation occurs throughout every step of the lawsuit process, regardless of the kind of lawsuit. So essentially, litigation is happening prior to, during, and after filing of any lawsuit. 

  • Pre-lawsuit litigation: the process of studying the case, collecting documentation, preparing a case, and initiating communications with the defendant.
  • Litigation happens after the defendant is made aware that there is a complaint against them that requires legal action.
  • In most situations litigation commences with a final verdict, or a resolution in a court case, in which a judge offers a final rule based on the proceedings.

In some scenarios after the final ruling, if one side is unhappy with the ruling, there may be an opportunity for them to appeal the case. In such scenarios, litigation would continue until the matters are resolved.

General Phases of Litigation

  • Discovery: the state in which both the plaintiff and the defendants gather evidence, documentation, and develop a strategy to support their case. 
  • Filing Motions: If either party refuses settlement, they may elect to file a motion to have the case heard in court by a judge and jury.
  • Expert Witnesses: Each side may select witnesses who are considered to possess a high level of knowledge and experience that pertains directly to the matters being discussed in the case.
  • Trial: Generally considered to be the final step of a litigation, trial is the stage where the case is formally presented in court before a judge and sometimes jury.

Thanks to Brown Kiely, LLP, Litigation Law Firm Washington, DC for their expertise on the subject of litigation.