Civil Litigation for Dummies

Part 1

What is Litigation?

Civil litigation is a legal dispute between two or more parties that, usually, seek economic damages or specific performance[1], rather than criminal sanctions.

Lawyers specialising in civil litigation are known as ‘litigators’. Litigators represent parties in federal, state and local courts, tribunals, arbitrations and mediations. Litigation begins the moment someone decides to formally enforce or defend their legal rights.

Certain areas of litigation have evolved to become specialised, such as environmental law, family law, criminal law and personal injuries law.

Civil litigation and how it works

Civil claims arise out of disputes between two or more legal entities such as people, companies, governments etc. These claims usually follow certain steps, such as making a demand to pay money, fulfil a promise or rectify a broken agreement. If the demand is not met, a claimant usually proceeds with litigating a matter in a court or tribunal.

Court litigation generally follows certain steps. Therefore, if a matter is going to proceed through a court it generally starts with one party filing either a claim or an application. An application is usually filed when there is only a question of law that needs to be determined, whereas a claim is filed when the facts of a particular case need to be established before the question of law is discussed.

Going to Court – Part 2 Civil Litigation for Dummies

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[1] Sometimes a party may want to insist that the other party complies strictly with the contract that has been made. This is called requiring specific performance. (