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A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the
civil Civil may refer to: *Civic virtue, or civility *Civil action, or lawsuit *Civil affairs *Civil and political rights *Civil disobedience *Civil engineering *Civil (journalism), a platform for independent journalism *Civilian, someone not a member ...
court of law A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Sta ...
. The archaic term "suit in law" is found in only a small number of laws still in effect today. The term "lawsuit" is used in reference to a civil action brought by a
plaintiff A plaintiff ( Π in legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an ''action'') before a court. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy. If this search is successful, the court will issue Judgment (law), judgment ...
(a party who claims to have incurred loss as a result of a defendant's actions) demands a
legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundari ...
or
equitable remedyEquitable remedies are judicial remedies developed by courts of Equity (law), equity from about the time of Henry VIII of England, Henry VIII to provide more flexible responses to changing social conditions than was possible in precedent-based common ...
from a
court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Sta ...

court
. The defendant is required to respond to the plaintiff's
complaint In legal terminology, a complaint is any formal legal document that sets out the facts and legal reasons (see: cause of action A cause of action or right of action, in law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interact ...

complaint
. If the plaintiff is successful,
judgment Judgement (or US spelling judgment) is also known as ''adjudication Adjudication is the legal process by which an arbiter or judge A judge is a person who wiktionary:preside, presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a ...
is in the plaintiff's favor, and a variety of
court order A court order is an official proclamation by a judge A judge is a person who presides over court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organize ...
s may be issued to enforce a
right Rights are legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is describe ...

right
, award damages, or impose a temporary or permanent
injunction An injunction is a legal Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of l ...
to prevent an act or compel an act. A
declaratory judgment A declaratory judgment, also called a declaration, is the legal determination of a court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party ( ...
may be issued to prevent future
legal dispute A legal case is in a general sense a dispute between opposing parties which may be resolved by a court, or by some equivalent legal process. A legal case is typically based on either Civil law (common law), civil or criminal law. In most legal ca ...
s. A lawsuit may involve
dispute resolution Dispute resolution or dispute settlement is the process of resolving disputes between parties Image:'Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Artist Festival at Skagen', by Peder Severin Krøyer (1888) Demisted with DXO PhotoLab Clearview; cropped away black borde ...
of
private law Private law is that part of a civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as E ...
issues between individuals,
business entities In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its b ...
or non-profit
organization An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a of the , originally spoken by the inhabitants of . It is named after the , one of the ancient that migrated from , a peninsu ...

organization
s. A lawsuit may also enable the
state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
to be treated as if it were a private party in a civil case, as plaintiff, or
defendant In court proceedings, a defendant is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic by Logical consequence, drawing conclu ...
regarding an injury, or may provide the state with a civil cause of action to enforce certain laws. The conduct of a lawsuit is called litigation. The plaintiffs and defendants are called litigants and the attorneys representing them are called litigators. The term litigation may also refer to a
criminal procedure Criminal procedure is the adjudication Adjudication is the legal process by which an arbitration, arbiter or judge reviews evidence (law), evidence and argumentation, including legal reasoning set forth by opposing parties or litigants, to come ...
.


Rules of procedure and complications

Rules of criminal or
civil procedure Civil procedure is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its env ...
govern the conduct of a lawsuit in the
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionary'' is the most-us ...
adversarial system The adversarial system or adversary system is a legal system used in the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by v ...
of dispute resolution. Procedural rules are constrained and informed by separate
statutory law Statutory law or statute law is written law passed by a body of legislature. This is as opposed to Oral law, oral or customary law; or regulatory law promulgated by the Executive (government), executive or common law of the judiciary. Statutes may ...
s,
case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority to judge, adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes—whether or not it is calle ...
s, and constitutional provisions that define the rights of the parties to a lawsuit (see especially
due process Due process is the legal requirement that the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspa ...
), though the rules generally reflect this legal context on their face. The details of the procedure differ greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and often from court to court even within the same jurisdiction. These rules of the particular procedures are very important for litigants to know, because the litigants are the ones who dictate the timing and progression of the lawsuit. Litigants are responsible to obtain the suited result and the timing of reaching this result. Failure to comply with the procedural rules may result in serious limitations that can affect the ability of one to present claims or defenses at any subsequent trial, or even promote the dismissal of the lawsuit altogether. Though the majority of lawsuits are settled before ever reaching trial, they can still be very complicated to litigate. This is particularly true in
federal Federal or foederal (archaic) may refer to: Politics General *Federal monarchy, a federation of monarchies *Federation, or ''Federal state'' (federal system), a type of government characterized by both a central (federal) government and states or ...
systems, where a federal court may be applying state law (e.g. the ''Erie'' doctrine, for example in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
), or vice versa. It is also possible for one state to apply the law of another in cases where additionally it may not be clear which level (or location) of court actually has
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
over the claim or
personal jurisdiction Personal jurisdiction is a court's jurisdiction over the ''parties'', as determined by the facts in evidence, which bind the parties to a lawsuit, as opposed to subject-matter jurisdiction Subject-matter jurisdiction (also called jurisdict ...
over the defendant, or whether the plaintiff has
standing Standing, also referred to as orthostasis, is a human position Human positions refer to the different physical configurations that the human body The human body is the structure of a human being. It is composed of many different types of ...
to participate in a lawsuit. About 98 percent of civil cases in the
United States federal courts The federal judiciary of the United States is one of the three branches of the federal government of the United States The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government or U.S. government) is the national government ...
are resolved without a trial. Domestic courts are also often called upon to apply foreign law, or to act upon foreign defendants, over whom they may not even have the ability to even enforce a judgment if the defendant's assets are theoretically outside their reach. Lawsuits can become additionally complicated as more parties become involved (see
joinder In law, a joinder is the joining of two or more legal issues together. Procedurally, a joinder allows multiple issues to be heard in one hearing Hearing, or auditory perception, is the ability to perceive sounds by detecting vibrations, ...
). Within a "single" lawsuit, there can be any number of claims and defenses (all based on numerous laws) between any number of plaintiffs or defendants. Each of these participants can bring any number of cross claims and counterclaims against each other, and even bring additional parties into the suit on either side after it progresses. In reality however, courts typically have some power to sever claims and parties into separate actions if it is more efficient to do so. A court can do this if there is not a sufficient overlap of factual issues between the various associates, separating the issues into different lawsuits. The official ruling of a lawsuit can be somewhat misleading because post-ruling outcomes are often not listed on the internet. For example, in the case of William J. Ralph Jr. v. Lind-Waldock & Company (September 1999), one would assume that Mr. Ralph lost the case when in fact, upon review of the evidence, it was found that Mr. Ralph was correct in his assertion that improper activity took place on the part of Lind-Waldock, and Mr. Ralph settled with Lind-Waldock. Cases such as this illustrate the need for more comprehensive information than mere internet searches when researching legal decisions. While online searches are appropriate for many legal situations, they are not appropriate for all.


Procedure

The following is a generalized description of how a lawsuit may proceed in a common law jurisdiction:


Pleading

A lawsuit begins when a complaint or petition, known as a pleading, is filed with the court. A complaint should explicitly state that one or more plaintiffs seek(s) damages or equitable relief from one or more stated defendants, and also should state the relevant factual allegations supporting the legal claims brought by the plaintiffs. As the initial pleading,
complaint
is the most important step in a civil case because a complaint sets the factual and legal foundation for the entirety of a case. While complaints and other pleadings may ordinarily be amended by a motion with the court, the complaint sets the framework for the entire case and the claims that will be asserted throughout the entire lawsuit. It is likewise important that the plaintiff select the proper venue with the proper jurisdiction to bring the lawsuit. The clerk of a court signs or stamps the court seal upon a
summons A summons (also known in England and Wales as a claim form and in the Australian state of New South Wales New South Wales (abbreviated as NSW) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a mo ...
or citation, which is then served by the plaintiff upon the defendant, together with a copy of the complaint. This service notifies the defendants that they are being sued and that they are limited in the amount of time of a reply. The service provides a copy of the complaint in order to notify the defendants of the nature of the claims. Once the defendants are served with the summons and complaint, they are subject to a time limit to file an answer stating their defenses to the plaintiff's claims, which includes any challenges to the court's jurisdiction, and any counterclaims they wish to assert against the plaintiff. In a handful of jurisdictions (notably, the
U.S. state In the , a state is a , of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a , each state holds al jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory where it shares its with the . Due to this shared sovereignty, are both of t ...
of
New York New York most commonly refers to: * New York City, the most populous city in the United States, located in the state of New York * New York (state), a state in the northeastern United States New York may also refer to: Film and television * New ...
) a lawsuit begins when one or more plaintiffs properly serve a summons and complaint upon the defendants. In such jurisdictions, nothing must be filed with the court until a dispute develops requiring actual judicial intervention. If the defendant chooses to file an answer within the time permitted, the answer must address each of the plaintiffs' allegations. The defendant has three choices to make, which include either admitting to the allegation, denying it, or pleading a lack of sufficient information to admit or deny the allegation. Some jurisdictions, like California and Florida, still authorize general denials of each and every allegation in the complaint. At the time the defendant files an answer, the defendant also raises all "affirmative" defenses. The defendant may also assert counterclaims for damages or equitable relief against the plaintiff. For example, in the case of "compulsory counterclaims," the defendant must assert some form of counterclaim or risk having the counterclaim barred in any subsequent proceeding. In the case of making a counterclaim, the defendant is making a motion directed towards the plaintiff claiming that he/she was injured in some way or would like to sue the plaintiff. The plaintiff in this example would then receive some amount of time to make a reply to this counterclaim. The defendant may also file a " third party complaint", which is the defendant's privilege to join another party or parties in the action with the belief that those parties may be liable for some or all of the plaintiff's claimed damages. An answer from the defendant in response to the claims made against him/her, can also include additional facts or a so-called "excuse" for the plead. Filing an answer "joins the cause" and moves the case into the pre-trial phase. Instead of filing an answer within the time specified in the summons, the defendant can choose to dispute the validity of the complaint by filing a
demurrer A demurrer is a pleading in a lawsuit A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the civil court of law. The archaic term "suit in law" is found in only a small number of laws still in effect today. The term "laws ...
(in the handful of jurisdictions where that is still allowed) or one or more "pre-answer motions," such as a motion to dismiss. It is important that the motion be filed within the time period specified in the summons for an answer. If all of the above motions are denied by the trial court, and the defendant loses on all appeals from such denials (if that option is available), and finally the defendant ''must'' file an answer. Usually the
pleading In law as practiced in countries that follow the English models, a pleading is a formal written statement of a party's claims or defenses to another party's claims in a civil action. The parties' pleadings in a case define the issues to be adjudi ...
s are drafted by a
lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate An advocate is a professional in the field of law. Different countries' legal systems use the term with somewhat differing meanings. The broad equivalent in many English ...

lawyer
, but in many courts persons can file papers and represent themselves, which is called appearing ''
pro se ''Pro se'' legal representation ( or ) comes from Latin ''pro se'', meaning "for oneself" or "on behalf of themselves", which in modern law means to argue on one's own behalf in a legal proceeding as a defendant or plaintiff in Civil law (common ...
''. Many courts have a ''pro se'' clerk to assist people without lawyers.


Pretrial discovery

A pretrial discovery can be defined as "the formal process of exchanging information between the parties about the witnesses and evidence they’ll present at trial" and allows for the evidence of the trial to be presented to the parties before the initial trial begins. The early stages of the lawsuit may involve initial disclosures of evidence by each party and
discovery Discovery may refer to: * Discovery (observation) Discovery is the act of detecting something new, or something previously unrecognized as meaningful. With reference to sciences and academic disciplines An academic discipline or academic fi ...
, which is the structured exchange of
evidence Evidence for a proposition is what supports this proposition. It is usually understood as an indication that the supported proposition is true. What role evidence plays and how it is conceived varies from field to field. In epistemology, evidence ...
and
statement Statement or statements may refer to: Common uses *Statement (computer science), the smallest standalone element of an imperative programming language *Statement (logic), declarative sentence that is either true or false *Statement, a Sentence_(lin ...
s between the parties. Discovery is meant to eliminate surprises, clarify what the lawsuit is about, and also to make the parties decide if they should settle or drop frivolous claims and/or defenses. At this point the parties may also engage in pretrial motions to exclude or include particular legal or factual issues before trial. There is also the ability of one to make an under oath statement during the pretrial, also known as a deposition. The deposition can be used in the trial or just in the pretrial, but this allows for both parties to be aware of the arguments or claims that are going to be made by the other party in the trial. It is notable that the depositions can be written or oral. At the close of discovery, the parties may either pick a
jury A jury is a sworn body of people (the jurors) convened to render an impartial Impartiality (also called evenhandedness or fair-mindedness) is a principle of justice holding that decisions should be based on objectivity (philosophy), objective ...

jury
and then have a
trial by jury A jury trial, or trial by jury, is a lawful proceeding in which a jury A jury is a sworn body of people (the jurors) convened to render an impartiality, impartial verdict (a Question of fact, finding of fact on a question) officially submit ...
or the case may proceed as a bench trial. A bench trial is only heard by the judge if the parties waive a jury trial or if the right to a jury trial is not guaranteed for their particular claim (such as those under
equity Equity may refer to: Finance, accounting and ownership *Equity (finance), ownership of assets that have liabilities attached to them ** Stock, equity based on original contributions of cash or other value to a business ** Home equity, the differe ...
in the U.S.) or for any lawsuits within their jurisdiction.


Resolution

Usually, lawsuits end in a settlement, with an empirical analysis finding that less than 2% of cases end with a trial. It is sometimes said that 95% of cases end in settlement; few jurisdictions report settlements, but empirical analysis suggests that the settlement rate varies by type of lawsuit, with torts settling around 90% of the time and overall civil cases settling 50% of the time; other cases end due to
default judgment Default judgment is a binding judgment in favor of either party based on some failure to take action by the other party. Most often, it is a judgment in favor of a plaintiff A plaintiff ( Π in legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a laws ...
, lack of a valid claim, and other reasons. At trial, each person presents witnesses and the evidence collected is recorded. After this occurs, the judge or jury renders their decision. Generally speaking, the plaintiff has the burden of proof in making his claims, however, the defendant may have the burden of proof on other issues, such as affirmative defenses. The attorneys are held responsible in devising a trial strategy that ensures they meet the necessary elements of their case or (when the opposing party has the burden of proof) to ensure the opponent will not be able to meet his or her burden. There are numerous motions that either party can file throughout the lawsuit to terminate it "prematurely"—before submission to the judge or jury for final consideration. These motions attempt to persuade the judge, through legal argument and sometimes accompanying evidence, that there is no reasonable way that the other party could legally win and therefore there is no sense in continuing with the trial. Motions for
summary judgment In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boun ...
, for example, can usually be brought before, after, or during the actual presentation of the case. Motions can also be brought after the close of a trial to undo a jury verdict contrary to law or against the weight of the evidence, or to convince the judge to change the decision or grant a new trial. Also, at any time during this process from the filing of the complaint to the final judgment, the plaintiff may withdraw the complaint and end the whole matter, or the defendant may agree to a settlement. If the case settles, the parties might choose to enter into a stipulated judgment with the settlement agreement attached, or the plaintiff may simply file a
voluntary dismissal Voluntary dismissal is termination of a lawsuit by voluntary request of the plaintiff (the party who originally filed the lawsuit). A voluntary dismissal with prejudice (meaning the plaintiff is permanently barred from further litigating the same ...
, so that the settlement agreement is never entered into the court record. The decisions that the jury makes are not put into effect until the judge makes a judgment, which is the approval to have this trial information be filed in public records. In a civil case, the judge is allowed at this time to make changes to the verdict that the jury came up with by either adding on or reducing the punishment. In criminal cases the situation is a little different, because in this case the judge does not have the authority to change the jury decision.


Appeal

After a final decision has been made, either party or both may
appeal In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described ...
from the judgment if they believe there had been a procedural error made by the trial court. It isn't necessarily an automatic appeal after every judgment has been made, however, if there is a legal basis for the appeal, then one has the right to do so. The prevailing party may appeal, for example, if they wanted a larger award than was granted. The
appellate court An appellate court, commonly called an ''appeals court'', ''court of appeals'' (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the Eng ...
(which may be structured as an intermediate appellate court) and/or a higher court then affirms the judgment, declines to hear it (which effectively affirms it), reverses—or vacates and remands. This process would then involve sending the lawsuit back to the lower trial court to address an unresolved issue, or possibly request for a whole new trial. Some lawsuits go up and down the appeals ladder repeatedly before final resolution. The appeal is a review for errors rather than a new trial, so the appellate court will defer to the discretion of the original trial court if an error is not clear. The initial step in making an appeal consists of the petitioner filing a notice of appeal and then sending in a brief, a written document stating reason for appeal, to the court. Decisions of the court can be made immediately after just reading the written brief, or there can also be oral arguments made by both parties involved in the appeal. The appellate court then makes the decision about what errors were made when the law was looked at more closely in the lower court. There were no errors made, the case would then end, but if the decision was reversed, the appellate court would then send the case back down to the lower court level. There, a new trial will be held and new information taken into account. Some jurisdictions, notably the United States, but prevalent in many other countries, prevent parties from relitigating the facts on appeal, due to a history of unscrupulous lawyers deliberately reserving such issues in order to ambush each other in the appellate courts (the "invited error" problem). The idea is that it is more efficient to force all parties to fully litigate all relevant issues of fact before the trial court. Thus, a party who does not raise an issue of fact at the trial court level generally cannot raise it on appeal. When the lawsuit is finally resolved, or the allotted time to appeal has expired, the matter is ''
res judicata ''Res judicata'' (RJ) or ''res iudicata'', also known as claim preclusion, is the Latin term for "a matter decided" and refers to either of two concepts in both civil law (legal system), civil law and common law legal systems: a case in which ther ...
'', meaning the plaintiff may not bring another action based on the same claim again. In addition, other parties who later attempt to re-litigate a matter already ruled on in a previous lawsuit will be ''
estopped Estoppel is a judicial device in common law jurisdictions, common law legal systems whereby a court may prevent or "estop" a person from making assertions or from going back on his or her word; the person being sanctioned is "estopped". Estoppel may ...
'' from doing so.


Enforcement

When a final judgment is entered, the plaintiff is usually barred under the doctrine of ''
res judicata ''Res judicata'' (RJ) or ''res iudicata'', also known as claim preclusion, is the Latin term for "a matter decided" and refers to either of two concepts in both civil law (legal system), civil law and common law legal systems: a case in which ther ...
'' from relitigating any of the issues, even under different legal theories. Judgments are typically a monetary award. If the defendant fails to pay, the court has various powers to seize any of the defendant's assets located within its jurisdiction, such as: * Writ of execution * Bank account
garnishment Garnishment is a legal process for collecting a monetary judgment Judgement (or US spelling judgment) is also known as ''adjudication Adjudication is the legal process by which an arbiter or judge A judge is a person who wiktionary:pres ...
*
Lien A lien ( or ) is a form of security interest In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creation and management of money and inv ...

Lien
s * Wage garnishment If all assets are located elsewhere, the plaintiff must file another suit in the appropriate court to seek enforcement of the other court's previous judgment. This can be a difficult task when crossing from a court in one state or nation to another, however, courts tend to grant each other respect when there is not a clear legal rule to the contrary. A defendant who has no assets in ''any'' jurisdiction is said to be "judgment-proof." The term is generally a colloquialism to describe an impecunious defendant. Indigent judgment-proof defendants are no longer imprisoned; debtor's prisons have been outlawed by statute, constitutional amendment, or international human rights treaties in the vast majority of common law jurisdictions.


Research in law, economics and management

Scholars in law, economics and management have studied why firms involved in a dispute choose between private dispute resolution—such as negotiation, mediation, and arbitration—and litigation.


Etymology

During the 18th and 19th centuries, it was common for lawyers to speak of bringing an "action" at law and a "suit" in
equity Equity may refer to: Finance, accounting and ownership *Equity (finance), ownership of assets that have liabilities attached to them ** Stock, equity based on original contributions of cash or other value to a business ** Home equity, the differe ...
. An example of that distinction survives today in the codified text of the
Third Enforcement Act The Enforcement Act of 1871 (), also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, Third Enforcement Act, Third Ku Klux Klan Act, Civil Rights Act of 1871, or Force Act of 1871, is an Act of the United States Congress which empowered the President to suspend ...
. The fusion of common law and equity in England in the
Judicature Acts The Judicature Acts are a series of Acts of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation In parliamentary systems and presidential systems of government, primary legislation and secondary legislation, the latte ...
of 1873 and 1875 led to the collapse of that distinction, so it became possible to speak of a "lawsuit." In the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (officially abbreviated Fed. R. Civ. P.; colloquially FRCP) govern civil procedure Civil procedure is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrela ...
(1938) abolished the distinction between actions at law and suits in equity in federal practice, in favor of a single form referred to as a "civil action." In
England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United Kingdom. England and Wales forms the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England and follows ...

England and Wales
the term "claim" is far more common; the person initiating proceedings is called the
claimant A plaintiff ( Π in legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a lawsuit A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the civil Civil may refer to: *Civic virtue, or civility *Civil action, or lawsuit *Civil affai ...
. American terminology is slightly different, in that the term "claim" refers only to a particular count or cause of action in a lawsuit. Americans also use "claim" to describe a demand filed with an insurer or administrative agency. If the claim is denied, then the claimant, policyholder, or applicant files a lawsuit with the courts to seek review of that decision, and from that point forward participates in the lawsuit as a plaintiff. In other words, the terms "claimant" and "plaintiff" carry substantially different connotations of formality in American English, in that only the latter risks an award of costs in favor of an adversary in a lawsuit. In medieval times, both "action" and "suit" had the approximate meaning of some kind of legal proceeding, but an action terminated when a judgment was rendered, while a suit also included the execution of the judgment.


Financing

Particularly in the United States, plaintiffs and defendants who lack financial resources for litigation or other
attorney's fee Attorney's fee is a chiefly United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of ...
s may be able to obtain
legal financing Legal financing (also known as litigation financing, professional funding, settlement funding, third-party funding, legal funding, lawsuit loans and, in England and Wales, litigation funding) is the mechanism or process through which litigants (an ...
. Legal financing companies can provide a cash advance to litigants in return for a share of the ultimate settlement or award. If the case ultimately loses, the litigant does not have to pay any of the money funded back.
Legal financing Legal financing (also known as litigation financing, professional funding, settlement funding, third-party funding, legal funding, lawsuit loans and, in England and Wales, litigation funding) is the mechanism or process through which litigants (an ...
is different from a typical bank
loan In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creation and management of money and investments. Savers and investors have money avai ...
in that the legal financing company does not look at credit history or employment history. Litigants do not have to repay the cash advance with monthly payments, but do have to fill out an application so that the legal financing company can review the merits of the case.
Legal financing Legal financing (also known as litigation financing, professional funding, settlement funding, third-party funding, legal funding, lawsuit loans and, in England and Wales, litigation funding) is the mechanism or process through which litigants (an ...
can be a practical means for litigants to obtain financing while they wait for a monetary settlement or an award in their
personal injury Personal injury is a legal term for an injury to the body, mind or emotions, as opposed to an injury to property. In common law, Anglo-American jurisdictions the term is most commonly used to refer to a type of tort lawsuit in which the person bring ...
,
workers' compensation Workers' compensation or workers' comp (formerly workmen's compensation until the name was changed to make it gender-neutral) is a form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment ...
, or
civil rights Civil and political rights are a class of rights Rights are legal Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', ...
lawsuit. Often, plaintiffs who were injured or forced to leave their jobs still have
mortgages A mortgage loan or simply mortgage () is a loan In finance, a loan is the lending of money by one or more individuals, organizations, or other entities to other individuals, organizations etc. The recipient (i.e., the borrower) incurs a ...
, rent, medical expenses, or other bills to pay. Other times, litigants may simply need money to pay for the costs of litigation and attorneys' fees, and for this reason, many litigants turn to reputable legal financing companies to apply for a cash advance to help pay for bills. Defendants, civil rights organizations, public interest organizations, and government public officials can all set up an account to pay for litigation costs and legal expenses. These
legal defense fundIn the United States, a legal defense fund (or LDF) is an account set up to pay for legal expenses, which can include attorneys' fees, court filings, litigation costs, legal advice, or other legal fees. The fund can be public or private and is set ...
s can have large membership counts where the members contribute to the fund. Unlike legal financing from legal financing companies, legal defense funds provide a separate account for litigation rather than a one-time cash advancement, nevertheless, both are used for purposes of financing litigation and legal costs. There was a study conducted in the ''Supreme Court Economic Review'' that shows why litigation financing can be practical and beneficial to the overall court system and lawsuits within the court. This study concluded that the new rules that were set for litigation financing actually did produce more settlements. Under conservative rules, there tended to be fewer settlements, however under the older rules they tended to be larger on average. Legal financing can become an issue in some cases, varying from case to case and person to person. It can be beneficial in many situations, however also detrimental in others.


See also

*
Actio popularisAn ''actio popularis'' was an action in Roman penal law brought by a member of the public in the interest of public order. The action exists in some modern legal systems. For example, in Spain, an ''actio popularis'' was accepted by Judge Garzón ...
*
Civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as England and Wales and the law of the United ...
* Compensation culture *
Divorce Divorce (also known as dissolution of marriage) is the optional process of terminating a marriage in Stockholm Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people calle ...

Divorce
* List of environmental lawsuits *
Private prosecution A private prosecution is a criminal In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Departm ...
*
Restorative justice Restorative justice is an approach to justice in which one of the responses to a crime is to organize a meeting between the victim and the offender, sometimes with representatives of the wider community. The goal is for them to share their expe ...
*
Strategic lawsuit against public participation A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), SLAPP suit, or intimidation lawsuit is intended to censor Censor may refer to: People with the name *Cato the Elder, also known as Cato the Censor (Marcus Porcius Cato, 234–149 BC), ...


Notes


References

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