How To Proceed With a Lawsuit in El Paso, TX
David Muñoz | October 21, 2022 | Personal Injury
A civil lawsuit is a complex undertaking. Although lawsuits in every state involve the same basic steps, the nuances vary from state to state. Even if your lawyer is handling your case for you, it is still to your advantage to understand the basics of how a lawsuit works.
Step 1: Initial Pleadings
The initial pleadings are the documents that commence a lawsuit. The first document to prepare is the complaint, which sets out your case against the defendant. The complaint must be prepared with care and precision because every sentence has consequences.
Once you prepare the complaint, prepare a summons that tells the defendant when and where to show up for court. You will need to pay the filing fee and transfer a copy of the summons and the complaint to a third party designated by law. The third party will transfer these documents to the defendant, typically by physically handing them to the person. You cannot perform service of process on your own.
Step 2: Pretrial Discovery
Pretrial discovery is a process whereby each party demands evidence that is in the possession of the other party. In some cases, a party might demand evidence that is in the hands of a third party, such as a bank. Pretrial discovery offers four main tools:
- Depositions: Each party can question witnesses the other party plans to call at trial. The questioning takes place under oath but out of court. A court reporter will record the deposition, but the judge will probably not attend.
- Interrogatories: Interrogatories are written questions that the receiving party must answer under oath by a certain deadline.
- Demands for Production: Demands for production are demands for access to evidence. This might mean a demand to copy certain documents, such as a report prepared by a testifying expert witness. It might also mean a demand to inspect a car or even the plaintiff’s injuries via an independent medical examination.
- Requests for Admission: In a request for admission, one party asks the other party to admit to certain relatively trivial facts (the defendant’s address, for example) that the requesting party doesn’t want to bother proving at trial. Parties often cooperate here because admissions simplify a trial.
If the other party refuses to comply, the requesting party can ask the court to sanction the refusing party. Court enforcement is what gives pretrial discovery some teeth so that a receiving party will not defy a request for evidence from the other side.
Step 3: Pretrial Motions
The parties might file a variety of pretrial motions asking the court to take some action. Two examples are:
- Motions to Dismiss: In a motion to dismiss, the defendant might ask the court to dismiss the case for various reasons. In most cases, however, the plaintiff files a Motion to Dismiss because the parties have reached a settlement.
- Motions to Suppress. A Motion to Suppress is a request from a party to forbid the use of certain evidence based on the Texas Rules of Evidence. For example, a plaintiff cannot use evidence that the defendant repaired a dangerous condition as evidence that the condition was dangerous in the first place.
Other events, such as a pretrial conference, also take place before trial.
Step 4: Trial
In a trial, each side presents the court with a written brief outlining their claims and arguments. They also select the jury and present evidence and arguments to support their respective claims. The jury will decide the case based on jury instructions that the judge issues.
Step 5: Appeal
In an appeal, a party dissatisfied with the verdict can ask a higher court to review the verdict. The higher court will review the appeal document and the evidence, and it will then issue a decision. Most losing parties do not appeal, and most appeals are unsuccessful.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney If You Have a Claim Over $10,000
If your claim is over $10,000, you cannot resolve it in small claims court. Once you leave small claims court, the rules of evidence and civil procedure become so complex you will almost certainly need an attorney. Of course, you might not be sure how much your claim is worth. Schedule a free initial consultation with a personal injury attorney in El Paso to find out.
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