Anatomy of a Civil Lawsuit: What to Expect if You Sue or Get Sued

Easements, Real Property

If you have never been involved in litigation before, you may not know what to expect. In today’s post we will give you some general guidance as to what is involved procedurally in a typical lawsuit.

Lawsuit Basics

All civil lawsuits start with the filing of a complaint (or, in some instances, a petition). Essentially, a complaint is the written document that names the parties involved and describes what the dispute is. The complaining party is the “plaintiff” (or plaintiffs, if there is more than one) and the person who gets sued is the “defendant” (or defendants).

After the complaint is filed with the court, it must be “served” on the defendant. Service of the complaint on the defendant (called “service of process”) is necessary to give the defendant notice of the claims being made against him. Although we won’t go into all the details here, service of process on the defendant must follow a number of strict rules in order to be considered “proper.”

Once the defendant has been served with the complaint, he generally has 30 days in which to respond to the complaint. The defendant’s written response to the complaint is called an “answer.”

Fundamentally, the case actually begins once all the parties have been served and have answered.

The next step in a litigation is usually “discovery.” Discovery is a pre-trial procedure in a civil lawsuit that allows each party to obtain information from the other party(ies) by using a number of different methods (i.e., written discovery, depositions, etc.). The purpose of discovery is to prevent “surprise” at trial. It allows each side to “discover” what information the other side has and what they will testify to at trial. It is hoped that by allowing the parties to have access to all the available information before trial, that this will enable both sides to realistically evaluate the strength of their case and hopefully reach a settlement.

Typically, most cases are required to at least attempt to resolve their differences before going to trial.  This can be mediation or arbitration or other alternative dispute resolution methods.

If the alternative dispute resolution procedures fail, the case will (eventually) go to trial.

Even the simplest of lawsuits can be very contentious, expensive and time-consuming.

That’s why, if you are involved in a lawsuit, you should have the best representation possible.

The Real Estate Experience You Need, When You Need It

Our real estate attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein have been handling real estate and litigation cases since 2001.  If you have a real estate problem, we can help craft a solution. With offices in Cumming, we serve a number of the surrounding counties as well as Atlanta. To schedule your free phone consultation, call us at: 770-888-7707 or e-mail your inquiries to

Previous Post
2 Legal Grounds for Breaking Your Lease in Georgia
Next Post
The Use of Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Easements
If You Have a Real Estate or Business Law Issue You Need Help With, Don’t Wait. Contact Us and Schedule a Consultation.
Font Resize