No one wants to face a legal dispute. But unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence for businesses. According to a survey by The Zebra, 90 percent of all companies experience getting sued throughout their lifetime.
And when business disputes happen, they can be costly, time-consuming, and distracting from your company’s core mission. That’s why it’s essential to know how to handle them effectively. If you find yourself embroiled in a legal battle, there are a few steps you can expect to face. Here’s what you need to know:
Filing the Lawsuit
This step is where one party formally initiates the legal process by filing a complaint with the court. The complaint will detail the allegations against the other party and typically request relief, such as monetary damages or an injunction.
Most of the time, the party that initiates the lawsuit is the plaintiff, and the other party is the defendant. But there are some exceptions to this rule. In class-action suits, for example, there can be multiple plaintiffs; in some cases, a defendant might file a counterclaim against the plaintiff.
Regardless, this part is vital to the process and sets the tone for the rest of the case. So it’s crucial to have an experienced attorney by your side who can help you navigate this stage. By working with a lawyer, you can ensure that your rights are protected and that you’re putting your best foot forward.
After the lawsuit is filed, the court will issue a summons, a document that notifies the defendant that they are being sued and need to appear in court. It will include information about the lawsuit, such as the allegations and the relief the plaintiff seeks.
This document must be served on the defendant by a process server, a neutral third party who will accomplish the service of process and provides the legal documents to the defendant. They will also explain the grounds for the lawsuit to the defendant and inform them of their rights.
The defending party will have a certain amount of time to respond to the lawsuit, typically 20 to 30 days. If they fail to comply, the plaintiff may be able to win the case by default. On the other hand, if the defendant does respond, the court will set a schedule for the discovery process.
If you’re being served with a summons, it’s essential to take it seriously. Don’t ignore it or try to avoid the process server. Doing so will only worsen things and could result in a default judgment against you. Instead, accept the summons and contact an attorney right away.
Also known as the pre-trial phase, the discovery is when both parties collect evidence to help build their case. It can occur in several ways, such as through written questions (interrogatories), document requests, and depositions.
This part of the process can be time-consuming and expensive, so having a plan is crucial. You’ll want to work with your attorney to develop a discovery strategy to help you get the necessary information while keeping costs down.
During discovery, both sides will also have the opportunity to file motions with the court. These motions can be used to request a ruling on specific issues or to ask the court to take certain actions, such as ordering the other party to produce documents.
Either way, it’s crucial to be proactive during discovery and not wait for the other side to make the first move. When you’re being strategic, you can put yourself in a better position to win your case.
Trial and Verdict
If you cannot settle your case during discovery, it will go to trial, where a judge or jury will hear both sides of the story and decide who should win.
At trial, each side will present their evidence and contend their case before the judge or jury. The plaintiff will go first, followed by the defendant. Once both sides have had a chance to present their case, the judge or jury will render a verdict.
While trials can be complex, they don’t have to be daunting. Especially if you have a strong case and are well-prepared to present it effectively, you can develop a case that will give you the best chance of success.
No two legal disputes are exactly alike, but there are some general steps that most cases follow. By understanding the process, you can be better prepared to handle your business dispute. The above is just a basic overview, so be sure to speak with an experienced attorney who can help you understand your specific case and the best way to proceed. Nonetheless, the following tips will give you a good starting point.