Civil vs Criminal Lawsuits
The first thing you need to know is that there’s a difference between criminal proceedings and civil litigation. In a criminal case, the court system is looking to hold someone responsible for violation of the law. There are different types of penalties that can be used as punishment, including fines, jail time or community service.
Civil lawsuits are designed to resolve disputes between two or more private parties. In these cases, one side believes the other party caused harm to them, so the courts are used to assist with resolving the issue.
Filing a Civil Lawsuit
An individual or corporation can bring a civil lawsuit to trial. The plaintiff is the one that files the lawsuit against the other party, known as the defendant. The plaintiff files a petition, asking the court to hear the matter and require the defendant to pay money or perform a specific task. There are various types of civil suits, including those involving contracts, torts or family law matters.
What is a Tort?
A tort is when someone does a wrongful act that causes harm or injury to someone, his or her property or reputation. This doesn’t include breach of contract or trust. The individual injured or harmed can ask the court to award compensation.
Intentional torts consist of libel, battery and slander. Then there are negligent torts, which include actions that unintentionally cause harm. This includes medical malpractice, auto accidents or product liability. It’s imperative to find an attorney who is well versed in this area of law and the rules surrounding it.
Steps of a Civil Lawsuit
When you’re looking to bring a civil lawsuit to court, you can obtain the help of a lawyer in filing the proper documents. The first step is to file a complaint. This is the initial pleading in a civil case that tells the court your purpose for filing the lawsuit.
In your complaint, you must ask for relief from the defendant for the damages caused. In the complaint, you must provide legal and factual reasons for why the defendant is at fault for your injury.
After filing your complaint, the clerk of court will issue a summons, so that the defendant can be served the complaint. A process server or a sheriff services the documents. The summons is a notification of a pending lawsuit against the defendant and includes a copy of the complaint.
The defendant is then allowed a specific amount of time – normally 20 calendar days (including weekends, excluding federal holidays) to answer the complaint. If you are a defendant in a case, it’s a good idea to work with a lawyer when writing the response, which should address the legal claims against you. This will notify the court about which facts you agree and disagree with.
After the complaint and answer have been properly filed, motions are written and filed by the attorneys on both sides. This is a request to the court to establish an order. For instance, the defendant can file a motion to dismiss the complaint, stating that it doesn’t have facts that prove the defendant is liable. There are many different motions that can be filed, depending on the situation of your case.
If the case proceeds, the next step is discovery and pre-trial. Discovery is when both parties provide information and documents relevant to the case. Depositions can also be conducted at this time. Once discovery has been completed, and no settlement has been reached, the case moves on to trial and judgment. The judge or jury will hear testimony from both sides and review evidence presented. The plaintiff has the burden of proving their case. Either a judge or jury will make the final ruling. If your case didn’t go as hoped, you can file an appeal.
By developing a strong reputation for providing clients top caliber representation and dedication towards producing excellent results, Mr. Cunha has also been sought out to litigate complex civil cases. In addition to complex divorce cases, Mr. Cunha litigates a select number of matters involving substantial commercial, insurance disputes and cases of catastrophic injury or wrongful death. Mr. Cunha has individually litigated a number of matters resulting in the recovery of millions on behalf of his clients. A few notable cases that Mr. Cunha has handled include:
- Wrongful Death as a result of a head-on collision. The parties settled the case for $4,114,000.
- Breach of Contract. The parties reached a confidential settlement.
- Injury to client’s finger and back as a result of the excessive use of force by police. Federal Jury Verdict: $102,490.
- Commercial Dispute. Recovered $1,500,000.
- Auto Accident and Insurance Dispute. Recovered $197,500.
In recognition of the damages awarded or judgments he has obtained for his clients in specific lawsuits, Mr. Cunha has been accepted and is a Lifetime Member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with Mr. Cunha to discuss your case, please call us at 561-429-3924.