Clark, Love & Hutson, PLLC

What are the basics of a civil trial in plaintiff litigation?

Each year in America hundreds of thousands of lawsuits are filed. The facts and laws involved in these cases can vary greatly, but the basic structure of a civil trial - if the case gets that far - is generally the same throughout the country. So, what are the basics of a civil trial in plaintiff litigation?

Well, for starters, it is important for our readers to understand that the vast majority of civil cases never reach the point of actually going to trial. Most settle well before that point. But, for those that do go to trial, the starting point is, some would argue, the most important step in the case: selecting the jury.

In the jury selection process, the attorneys for both sides in the case, as well as the judge, will be able to gather information about the group of people who have been called in for jury service to see if any of those individuals would have any preconceived biases that would affect their ability to objectively listen to the evidence and reach a verdict. Those who do have some type of bias are usually not selected to serve on the jury.

From there, both sides will usually make opening statements, which is intended to provide an overview of the case. After opening statements, witnesses are called, questioned, and cross-examined so that evidence can be admitted. After all evidence is presented, both sides usually make closing arguments, which is a last chance to shape the opinion of the jury members. After that, the judge will provide the jury with certain instructions, and then the jury will deliberate and return a verdict.

It may sound pretty straightforward, but the litigation process is highly complex. This is why those who are thinking about pursuing a legal claim should consider consulting with a legal professional who can help them navigate the process and craft the compelling legal arguments they need to support their position.

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