Stages of a Civil CaseCheck out this video about the stages of a civil case in Arizona. Then, call Smith & Green Attorneys at Law today for a legal consultation.
What are the stages of a civil case?
We have hundreds and hundreds of clients that we represent, and they often ask this question, particularly about civil cases that we represent: “What are the stages of my civil case? How is this thing going to progress through court?” Truth be told, this can be a very scary process. When you go downtown to the courthouse, they’re a whole lot bigger than any mock trial we could guide you through. Federal courts are a whole lot bigger than that, even, and people want to know, “What can I expect through the stages of my case? How is it going to go?” These are rules that mark and demark the stages that your case has to go through. There are so many different variations, but broadly speaking what happens with your case is, one, first of all, you must file a timely lawsuit. You have to pay attention to the statute of limitations on your case. A statute of limitation is a fancy legal way of saying you only have a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit regarding what you feel has happened to you in violation of the law. If you let that statute of limitation run, it is a bar to filing that lawsuit; the court won’t even accept jurisdiction of it because the lawsuit would be considered untimely. After you file a timely lawsuit, then you have to serve that complaint. Particularly in Arizona, you have to serve that complaint within 90 days of filing the lawsuit. If it’s a family law matter like a divorce, you generally have 120 days to file it. This is going to be different depending on what court you are in and what jurisdiction you are in. You’re going to have a certain amount of time to serve that complaint. Serving that complaint has to be served in accordance to the rules. Sometimes, it takes a process server. Sometimes, you can send it certified mail. You’re going to need to talk with an attorney so that you know how that complaint needs to be served. There is then an answer filed to that complaint, or a response to a petition. Whoever that you’re suing, they get a certain amount of time to respond to it. For example, in Arizona, generally, if you’re served with your complaint in state, you’ve got 20 days to respond to it. If you’re served out of state, you have 30 days to respond to it. If you sign this little paper that we call a waiver of service, so they don’t have to go through the expense of hiring a process server, then the state will give you 60 days to respond to the complaint, so it could vary depending on how and where you were served or if you waived service. The complaint has to be served and you have to respond to it within the specified time frame. If you don’t, that’s when that bad D-word comes up – default. The party that’s suing could file a default against you and get what they asked for, if you don’t respond to the default. There are other things that happen in the process. You can petition to remove the complaint to another court. For instance, if we file a civil rights action under the Federal Constitution in state court, we could request it be removed to federal court. That’s all a process that your attorney is going to have to deal with – and that’s why you need to talk to a lawyer. One of the big mistakes we see folks make that feel like they have a case is they think they can do it on their own. We’ve been to school for a number of years. We’ve spent hours training and reviewing law. This is not something you should try to do on your own. You need a lawyer to talk to. You need to find the best lawyer for you because after you get this thing filed, then you enter into what we call discovery, where you’re submitting evidence and deposing people. This is all before you get to trial, so there’s quite a lengthy process. How long is this going to take? It depends on your case. It depends on how you schedule things out to be done. You need to talk with your lawyer to discuss all of these things because there are things that can be taken into consideration – your family, resources, all of that stuff. You need to talk to a good lawyer. You can call our office. You’re more than welcome to speak with us about your case and, should we become the counsel of record for you, obviously we’ll go over all these things with you. It’s always important to start out on the right foot, to get things going in the right way up front, so that you can get the best possible outcome in the future. Call a good lawyer and let’s get your case on the road.
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