Business disputes can be stressful and confusing for anyone. Whether you’re struggling to come to an agreement with an employee or just trying to collect some unpaid bills, your business operations can be disrupted. If you are a business owner engaging in a dispute, you’ll need to know all you can to ensure you’re not missing crucial opportunities for your case.
Litigation is the default mode of dispute resolution. It involves bringing evidence before a judge or jury to resolve a claim made by one party against another. Small business litigation often takes place in a small claims court, while larger corporations may lawyers on retainer to navigate the dispute in a process that can take years.
Understanding the litigation process can help you reduce stress and take productive action as you work through your dispute. Here’s what you need to know to navigate the process.
What Happens During Litigation?
Litigation begins when the plaintiff, or person bringing the lawsuit to court, files a complaint. The person they are making a complaint against is called the defendant. Usually, the plaintiff will also file a summons to let the defendant know about the lawsuit and give them a deadline for a response.
In most cases, both the plaintiff and the defendant hire an attorney to help them with their case. Some individuals and small businesses choose to go into a lawsuit on their own, which is called “pro se”. However, this can be a risky venture since most pro se litigants do not have the training or understanding of legal intricacies that attorneys have. If you are thinking about arguing your own case, consider this carefully as it will likely put you at a disadvantage.
After dates have been set, the discovery process begins. Both the plaintiff and the defendant gather information about the case as they prepare to go to court. They may also file motions with the court to obtain information or ask for a change of procedure, such as asking for the case to be heard by a judge as opposed to a jury. This process can take months as each party investigates the facts.
Next, the plaintiff and defendant come to court at the appointed date. A jury or judge hears the case and makes a decision. At this point, the process is usually over. However, either party can appeal a judge’s decision to a higher court if they have a good reason for questioning the verdict.
Do I have to Go Through Litigation for Every Dispute?
There are several alternatives to litigation that may be used depending on your circumstances. The most common alternative is arbitration, a procedure that may be required by a mandatory arbitration clause in a contract.
In arbitration, a disinterested third party makes a decision rather than a judge or jury. This person listens to both sides of a dispute. One of the primary advantages of arbitration is that it may cost less or require less time than litigation.
Arbitration is often confused with mediation, which is a more informal process that does not result in a binding decision. A mediator goes between the disputing parties to help them settle a dispute but does not issue orders. The focus is on helping both parties negotiate an agreement rather than issuing a decision from a legal authority.
How Do I Find an Attorney?
Both the defendant and the plaintiff typically have attorneys to help them during the information-gathering process and at court. Litigation attorneys, or trial lawyers, specialize in these processes.
Anderson Hunter provides full-service business representation, including litigation assistance. We’ve been helping companies like yours in Snohomish County for over 100 years. If you or your business is going through a dispute, trusted legal counsel from experienced attorneys can help.
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