Litigation refers to the process of resolving a legal dispute in a court of law. Litigation typically refers to a civil lawsuit, where one party sues another for money or to obtain some form of equitable relief from the court. However, litigation also encompasses criminal cases as well.

If you are a business or individual who has a legal dispute with someone else, you should understand what is involved in the litigation process. 

Hiring an Attorney

The first step in the litigation process involves hiring an attorney. In most cases, you will want to hire a lawyer who specializes in litigation, as opposed to an attorney who focuses on transactional work. Litigation attorneys work in law firms of all sizes, from the largest firms in the world all the way down to solo practitioners. 

You do have the right to represent yourself in litigation -- this is known as being “pro se.” However, you should carefully consider whether you want and are capable of handling your case on your own. 

Filing a Complaint

Litigation officially begins once you have filed a complaint in court. The complaint is filed by the party known as the plaintiff, against a party or parties known as the defendant. When the complaint is filed, the court will also provide the plaintiff with a summons, which gives the defendant notice of the lawsuit and the date by which they must file their response (if they choose to). The complaint and summons typically must be served on the defendant by the plaintiff, usually by hiring a sheriff, constable, or private process server to deliver them in person to the defendant. 

If the defendant or defendants failed to file an answer to the complaint, the plaintiff can seek a default judgment against the defendant, which the court will usually grant so long as the plaintiff’s complaint sets forth enough facts to establish a legal cause of action.

Discovery and Motion Practice

Once both parties have filed their initial pleadings, they will proceed to discovery, where the parties begin collecting information, exchanging evidence with one another, and taking depositions of relevant witnesses. 

During or at the end of discovery, the parties will usually file motions. These motions may include requests to compel the other side to produce certain evidence or information, or they may involve requests to exclude certain evidence from a trial, or they may involve dispositive motions, which seek to resolve some or all the issues in the case without the need for a trial. 


If any issues remain outstanding following motion practice, the court will eventually schedule a trial, where the parties will have the chance to present their evidence and witnesses and cross-examine the other side’s case. A decision will then be rendered by either a jury or the judge.

What is the Burden of Proof in a Civil Case?

In most cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proof. The standard of proof in civil cases is usually the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, sometimes called a “more likely than not” standard.

Alternatives to Litigation

Parties may choose to avoid litigation in court through an alternative dispute resolution process. One common process is called arbitration, which is a trial-like proceeding, although often much quicker and more informal than litigation in court. Parties may also choose to engage in mediation, where settlement discussions are facilitated by a neutral third party.

Contact a Rochelle Park Lawyer to Discuss Your Case in New Jersey

Did you or a loved one sustain serious losses due to someone else’s legal fault in New Jersey? Don’t let your losses pile up while you wait for the liable party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at The Epstein Law Firm represent clients in Jersey City, Union City, Bayonne, Hoboken, and throughout New Jersey. Call (201) 380-7687 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 340 West Passaic St., Rochelle Park, NJ 07762.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.