Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Litigation
1. What does “litigation” mean?
Litigation refers to the legal process that is used to resolve a dispute. Each state has a particular court system where people can file lawsuits and have a Judge or Jury resolve a legal dispute. While the procedures for filing lawsuits vary from state to state, a lawsuit is started by the filing of a formal legal document often called a “Complaint”. The Complaint must be served on the other party to the dispute, and that party responds by filing an “Answer”. Thereafter, the parties exchange information through a process called “Discovery” and if the case is not resolved informally, it proceeds to trial where a Judge or Jury makes a final determination on the dispute at issue.
2. Why does a case end up in litigation, and how do I know if it is the best process for me?
A case usually ends up in litigation if that parties are unable to resolve the dispute informally. Most people do not want to go through the formal litigation process because it is very stressful, time consuming, and expensive. Your attorney can counsel you as to your available options and together, you can decide what approach best suits your needs.
3. How is litigation different from out-of-court resolution processes such as mediation?
In North Carolina, Mediation is part of the formal court process in all cases filed in Superior Court. Mediation usually t akes place after the parties have completed exchanging information during the “discovery” process.
4. Can I change course from litigation to an out-of-court process if I am already in the court process?
Yes, provided the other party in the suit wishes to do so. It is not uncommon for lawsuits to be settled informally once they are filed.
5. Is litigation expensive?
The cost of litigation varies based on a variety of factors, such as what Court you file your lawsuit in. For example, in North Carolina, Magistrate’s Court is used in most counties for disputes where there is up to $10,000 in dispute. Magistrate’s Court, commonly known as “Small Claims Court” is a streamlined process aimed at resolving legal disputes quickly and cost effectively. In contrast, lawsuits that are filed in our lowest trial court, North Carolina Superior Court, involve more detailed procedural processes that in turn, take significant time and cost more money. Your attorney can guide you as to what court would be the best place for you to file your lawsuit. Also, always check the county’s jurisdictional limitation before you file your lawsuit!
6. How long will my case take if it proceeds through the court?
The length of time your case will take to go through the legal system in North Carolina depends on what court your lawsuit is filed in. Cases filed in Magistrate Court or “Small Claims Court” move fairly quickly and can often be resolved within thirty days This depends, however, on how busy the Magistrate Court is when your lawsuit is filed.
7. Where can I get more information about litigation?
Many places. Your attorney can answer any specific questions that you have. There are also may sources of information available on the internet but be careful when reviewing internet sites. Often, the information that is posted online is not accurate and therefore, you should not rely on it unless you are certain the source of the information is indeed accurate.