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Understanding the steps of a civil trial

A lawsuit places your Florida business at risk of financial setback, not to mention the potential for damage to its reputation. Facing these and other uncertainties may be the root of your stress. It may help you to learn as much as you can about the process ahead and how your participation can help you reach your goals.

Whether you are pursuing payment from a client, seeking justice following a breach of contract, or defending your actions against allegations of an employee or other entity, your trial will likely follow a pattern of action similar to most civil trials. Understanding these steps may help alleviate many questions about what to expect.

Your day in court

If you are the plaintiff, you must convince the judge or jury that the other party's actions resulted in damages for you. As the defendant, you will have to refute the allegations the other party makes about your actions. Much preparation takes place well before you head to court. Perhaps you are dealing with this now, gathering documentation and answering questions in a deposition. When your trial begins, you can expect the following phases:

  • Jury selection: Your attorney and your opponent's attorney will question potential jurors and select those whose responses suggest they may be appropriate for hearing your case.
  • Opening statements: Each attorney will address the newly selected jury and summarize the case, interpreting the facts from their own sides so the jury will understand the basic dispute they are deciding.
  • Testimony: The plaintiff will present evidence through witness testimony, and the defense will then present its own evidence to dispute the plaintiff. Each attorney will have the chance to cross-examine both sides.
  • Closing statements: The attorneys remind the jury of the evidence they have heard and explain how the evidence supports their sides.
  • Instructions: The judge will explain to the jury what legal standards they must consider when reviewing the evidence they have just heard.
  • Deliberation: The jury will go to a private room to evaluate the evidence and discuss their opinions until they reach a decision.

Once the case is out of your hands, you must wait for the jury to reach its decision. However, if you receive a favorable verdict, you may be able to recoup your losses and put the matter behind you. An unfavorable verdict may mean deciding whether you should appeal. With the guidance of a skilled and conscientious attorney, you may have a better chance of avoiding mistakes that could prevent you from meeting your goals.

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