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Preparation is key when it comes to any trial
If you are preparing for a civil case in court, there are things you should know to have a successful outcome. We’ve prepared this guide to help you navigate this important legal proceeding.
What is a civil case?
It might be useful to define what a civil court case is and what it involves. According to USCourts.gov, a civil case, “Involves a legal dispute between two or more parties. A civil action begins when a party to a dispute files a complaint.” The plaintiff (the person who brings the suit) can file for damages or money to compensate for harm caused by the defendant. The plaintiff may also ask for an injunction to keep the defendant from doing something.
There are four basic types of civil cases:
- Tort claims – A wrongful act that results in an injury, property damage or damage to a person’s reputation
- Breach of contract claims – One person fails to live up to the terms of a contract
- Equitable claims – Asking the court to take some action or stop some action
- Landlord/Tenant issues
On the other hand, a criminal case involves the breaking of a law. In this instance, the government prosecutes an individual for violating the law.
Here are 5 steps to prepare for a civil case
Step 1: Read the complaint
Whether or not you were the one who filed the suit, start preparing by reading the complaint. This is the document the judge will be reading. The purpose of this read-through is to determine how you will prove (if you are the plaintiff) or disprove (if you are the defendant) the allegations spelled out in the complaint.
You need to determine:
- What evidence you will need to prove/disprove the statements
- If anything relevant has happened since the original incident. For example, has a debt been paid, was there a mediation or have there been additional damages?
- If any key elements are missing from the complaint
Step 2: Gather your evidence
Whether you filed the complaint or not, you will have to gather evidence to prove your case.
Evidence can include:
- Copies of legal contracts
- Written and/or digital communications (emails, texts etc.)
- Records of payments or evidence of non-payment
According to PeoplesLaw.org, “If you have a contract, read it…The judge will expect both parties to be familiar with the contract. There are certain legal elements that must be proved if your goal is to enforce your contract. If you wish to show that the contract is not valid, you must explain why (disproving the same elements).”
Step 3: Analyze the case and decide what you need to prove/disprove
What you really want to do is analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Then determine how to play to your strengths or defend your weaknesses. Review the elements that must be proven and decide what evidence you can present that will prove/disprove those elements.
Step 4: Prepare documentation and your witnesses
This is actually a multi-step process:
- Identify and prepare evidence and physical documentation you plan to present in court.
- Make copies of everything for the opposing side and the judge.
- Keep all of your documentation organized so you can find everything when you need it.
- Highlight important points you plan to present to prove your case.
- Identify and prepare your witnesses. Make sure witnesses can support your key points and that they have firsthand knowledge of the situation. Also, make sure any “experts” are truly qualified to give opinions or judgments in this matter.
Step 5: Practice your presentation…and then practice again
You will be much more relaxed – and much more likely to remember your key points – if you practice beforehand. Going before a judge and in front of witnesses can make anyone nervous, especially if you’ve never been involved in a court case before. It’s also okay to make notes with your key points. It doesn’t have to be a full script. You can use bullet points, the first few sentences, or anything that will jog your memory and ensure you don’t forget a point that is crucial to your case.
Preparing for a civil case takes time and effort. Follow these five steps to help you present the best case possible to help ensure the outcome you want.
At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist you.