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Basic steps in the civil litigation process

On Behalf of | Dec 1, 2022 | Firm News

Deciding to file a lawsuit against someone is a big step. Disputes can arise in many different types of situations. You may have tried everything possible to resolve the dispute yourself but could not.

If you have never been in court before, the litigation process can seem confusing and intimidating. Having professional advice and guidance can help.

File a complaint

It is important to understand the basic steps of a civil lawsuit in West Virginia. You are the plaintiff. You start your lawsuit by filing a complaint and serving it to the person you are suing, or the defendant.

A complaint must contain certain information. This information may depend on the type of case you are filing. For example, the necessary information for a complaint based on a business dispute might be different from the information required for a property dispute.

Serve the defendant

There are also specific rules to follow regarding service. You must serve the defendant according to these rules to ensure service is proper.

Once the defendant is served, they have 20 days to respond. They must serve you with a copy of their response, which lays out their alleged defenses to your complaint.


The next step is the discovery process. This involves both you and the defendant requesting evidence from each other. Evidence can be documents or sworn testimony, which is given through a deposition.

Pre-trial conference

When the discovery process is complete, you will be scheduled for a pre-trial conference. This is a semi-formal meeting between you, the defendant, your attorneys and a judge.

The judge will ask questions about the case status and the chances of resolving. You and the defendant always have the option to settle the case before trial if you come to an agreement on how to solve the matter.

The trial

If you cannot reach your own agreement, a trial is held in front of the judge, who decides the matter and enters a court order. You must abide by the court order. If it is not in your favor, you have a legal right to appeal.

This is a relatively simple outline of the civil litigation process. Each case is unique, so having professional assistance is helpful.