A civil lawsuit may sound daunting, but it is a well-established legal process that always follows a particular pattern. Understanding the six main stages of a civil lawsuit can help you know what to expect and make it easier for you and your family to go through the legal process in Kansas.
1. Filing the Claim With the Civil Courts
The first step is the filing of the civil claim. Civil lawsuits are generally filed in the county where the defendant lives or works. You will need to identify the defendant and obtain his or her address before you can file your claim. Then, you will need to obtain or download the required forms and fill them out completely.
You or your attorney will submit these forms to the civil courthouse in the correct city, such as the Leawood Municipal Court at 4205 Town Center Drive if the defendant is located in Leawood, and pay the filing fee. After the claim is filed, it will be served on the defendant. This is something you can do yourself, or you can hire someone to do it for you.
2. Discovery (Fact-Finding)
The next stage is discovery or fact-finding. The discovery phase is where both parties search for information. They may do this by investigating the incident in question, scheduling depositions (in-person interviews) with relevant parties, sending interrogatories (written questionnaires) and filing requests for information. Discovery can last several weeks, depending on the case.
3. Resolutions Before Trial – Court Motions or Settlements
At any point before the first day of a scheduled civil trial in Kansas, a dispute can be resolved through pre-trial court motions or settlement negotiations. In fact, the most common resolution for a civil lawsuit is a settlement agreement between the defendant’s insurance company and the plaintiff. Negotiations often involve alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration. A case may also end with a court motion, such as a motion to dismiss, if the courts grant a motion that is submitted by either party.
4. Civil Trial
If a lawsuit proceeds to trial in Kansas, a jury will be selected out of a pool of jurors after being asked questions by the attorneys representing both sides of the case. Then, both parties will appear at a civil trial, where their trial attorneys will present their arguments for the jury to decide the outcome of the case. A civil trial consists of the following steps:
- Opening statements
- Presentation of evidence
- Witness testimony
- Cross-examination of witnesses
- Closing statements
- Jury instruction
- Jury deliberation
The opening statements are a chance for both parties to summarize what they plan to prove in the coming days. Then, both parties will present their evidence, beginning with the plaintiff’s side. Once everything has been presented, closing statements are given. These are the last chance for each side to voice which way they wish the jury to decide. A civil trial can take one day, several days or longer, based on the case.
5. Verdict and Judgment Award
After receiving instructions from the judge on the burden of proof in the civil case – which is a preponderance of the evidence, or proof that the claim being made by the plaintiff is more likely to be true than not true – the jury will decide whether the plaintiff met the burden of proof using clear and convincing evidence. If so, the jury will rule in the plaintiff’s favor and award a judgment that the jury deems appropriate. Most judgment awards are paid within a few weeks of a verdict unless an appeal is filed.
An appeal can be filed if one party wishes to challenge the court’s decision. An appeal cannot be filed just because one party is unhappy with the decision. There must be a valid reason, such as a misrepresentation of fact during the case or alleged jury misconduct.
For more information or assistance with a specific civil lawsuit in Kansas, contact DRZ Law to speak with an attorney during a free and confidential consultation.