Anatomy Of A Lawsuit | Alexandria Personal Injury Lawyer | Virginia Probate and Estate Planning Lawyer
Anatomy of a Lawsuit

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Many people, at some point in their lives, encounter some form of wrong brought about by the actions of another. While virtually everybody understands that the law provides a remedy for legal wrongs, many people have little comprehension of what comprises a legal wrong or what is actually involved in a lawsuit. A civil lawsuit has three main parts: pleading, discovery, and trial.


The pleading phase, as well as the lawsuit, itself, begins when the plaintiff files a legal complaint in the court of appropriate jurisdiction. What actually happens here is that a lawyer interviews the plaintiff, hears his story, and then drafts a complaint citing the relevant information. The complaint identifies both the plaintiff parties and defendant parties, describes events in contention, and states the laws alleged to have been violated.

To be properly formed, the complaint must relate the events to actual laws that have been broken. If the complaint fails to properly identify breaches of law, the case will not be allowed to continue. For example, a citizen cannot sue his neighbor because the neighbor paints his house pink with purple polka dots, and the citizen believes this to be in bad taste. However, if this color scheme does not comply with the rules of a governing homeowner’s association (which constitute a contract between each resident and other members of the association), and the citizen can prove harm as a result (for example, in the form of a lost sale of his own home to a potential buyer who stated that he would not live next to a house painted pink with purple polka dots, but otherwise would have bought the citizen’s house), then the contentious paint can be contested in court.


Discovery, as the name implies, is the phase in which both sides of the case reveal the evidence that will be used to prove their case. Usually, discovery begins with written interrogatories issued by each side to the opposing side, which is answered in writing. Later phases of discovery involve depositions in which witnesses are questioned under oath and statements made are documented by a court reporter.

At the conclusion of discovery, each side will usually file a motion requesting an automatic decision made by the judge, called summary judgment. If the plaintiff has failed to disclose sufficient evidence that will be used in court to prove the case, the judge might respond to the motion by dismissing the case. On the other hand, if the opposing side demonstrates no defense against well-founded allegations, the plaintiff can win before trial via summary judgment.


The third and final phase of a lawsuit is the trial, which begins with jury selection. Jurors are selected from a pool of prospects and each side attempts to assemble jurors who have the traits most amenable to their own cause. For example, in a criminal case, police officers and close family members are usually not chosen by the defendant to serve on the jury. Trial begins with the opening statements made by each side followed by the presentation of evidence, most often in the form of live witness testimony. After being questioned, the opposing side is afforded the opportunity to cross-examine, meaning to ask questions or ask about clarification for statements already made. Finally, closing statements are made by each side.

Prior to making a decision, the judge will deliver instructions to the jury. These instructions dictate how the jury will rule upon reaching certain conclusions. Instructions might dictate certain presumptions in the law. For example, if the jury believes that the plaintiff proved fact X, then the jury must accept that fact Y is true as a result. They might also forbid the jury from factoring certain portions of evidence into the ultimate decision.

Choose experienced legal representation to win your case

Lawyers who argue legal cases must utilize a wide variety of skills, including written skill, knowledge of the law, and oratory skills. Cases are not merely argued, they are presented. Many facets of the legal process must be negotiated by lawyers and many stumbling blocks can occupy the path to a favorable decision. Successful navigation of the court process is best handled by an attorney who has been seasoned with experience. Contact or call the attorneys at The Kamerow Law Firm, PLLC, in Alexandria, for a free and confidential consultation of your case by calling 703-370-8088. Let them hear your story.