The litigation process


What is litigation?

Litigation takes place when one person sues another. A litigation case is usually comprised of two or more parties which have serious grievances and are unable to come to a compromise without the court’s interference. 

A litigation case may be on any area of law. Each litigation case will be filed and subsequently heard in the appropriate court, depending on what area of law the case deals with, how complex it is and the monetary value (if any) of the case.

As well as the level of the court (i.e. Crown, county, magistrates or High) a case could also be heard in specialist courts, such as the commercial court or the admiralty court.

What is the litigation process?

The litigation process differs depending on the type of claim. For example, the process for a defamation claim will differ to a personal injury claim. And the civil litigation process differs from the criminal litigation process. However, the basic steps remain the same.

The basic steps in the litigation process are:

  • The claimant files their claim at court, with supporting documentation
  • The claimant (or the court) serves the claim on the other party (the respondent)
  • The respondent must file a response within a certain time limit. They can either: agree to the claim; defend the claim; or partially defend the claim
  • The parties may have to submit further documents and evidence
  • The parties will come to court, usually first for a pre-trial hearing
  • The matter will proceed to a final hearing. Both sides will be able to give their version of the claim, and can usually present evidence and call witnesses. When witnesses are called, both parties can question them
  • The court will make its decision and make final orders
  • The parties must appeal within time limits if they are unhappy with the decision

Can the parties reach settlement once the litigation process has started?

The parties are encouraged to reach settlement at any point during the litigation process.

Obviously, the sooner an agreement is reached, the more savings there will be in legal costs, not to mention time and stress. But, even if the matter has started in court, you can still enter into a settlement agreement.

You should always have a solicitor advise you on any settlement offer.

Do you need a solicitor?

Having a solicitor represent you will greatly increase your chances of winning your claim. Even if the law and facts are on your side, a well-argued case can go a long way in convincing a judge and jury.

If you are involved in a litigation case, it is important to keep in mind that costs (i.e. the solicitor’s fees) usually make up part of the award at the end of the trial. These costs are estimated by the judge and one way to minimise the costs awarded against you is to show that you have acted as reasonably as possible, and with the intent of avoiding litigation.

For general information on this topic, see our advice page about litigation.

Are you still unsure of the litigation process, and want to know if you should bring a litigation claim to the court? Contact Law can recommend a specialist litigation solicitor to assess your case and recommend the best course of action. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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