Lawsuits & Disputes
When people have disputes that need to be settled, they can seek a decision from a court (by filing a lawsuit) or from another party outside of the court system (such as an arbitrator or mediator.)
The term “litigation” means to contest or engage someone in a lawsuit. A civil action is a lawsuit brought by an injured party (the “plaintiff”) who claims to have suffered damages as a result of the wrongful actions of another party (the “defendant.”) Litigation allows for each party to obtain more evidence about their case (discovery and interrogatories), call witnesses to testify and argue the merits of their case. A judge or jury will render a verdict after both sides present their case. The U.S. court system consists primarily of federal courts (making decisions concerning federal law and disputes between residents of different states), state courts, city and municipal courts, appeals courts and courts of special jurisdiction. Small Claims Court is used mostly by consumers to settle small disputes. It is locally accessible, more informal and less costly than most civil courts which usually suggest the need for a lawyer. Arbitration and mediation are alternative forms of resolving legal disputes outside of the court system which are usually less costly, more informal and move more quickly to a conclusion.