A guide to civil litigation

Are you facing a legal disagreement or problem? We know that dealing with legal matters can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re not familiar with the world of law. 

In just the first three months of 2023 there were 443,000 civil litigation County Court claims lodged, the highest number for three years according to data from the Civil Justice. 89% of these are money and damages claims, up 8% compared to the same period as last year, while non-money claims are up 10% compared to the same months. But what exactly is civil litigation? 

What is civil litigation?

Civil litigation and civil law is the process of solving legal disagreements between people or businesses using a ‘litigator’. It handles non-criminal conflicts, covering various matters from family and property disputes, arguments over money, and contract breaches. 

A dispute is an umbrella term for issues that result from an unfulfilled task or an expectation that was not met when there was a legal obligation to do so. This can range from anything from unpaid bills to defective products. Litigation is the process of resolving these disputes. 

Furthermore, in civil litigation, one side seeks compensation (usually money) for harm or things that weren’t done as promised (a dispute) by filing a lawsuit with the litigator where the matter can be handled in court. These conflicts can be settled with the help of the litigator in various ways such as through a trial, meetings or through discussions with mediators or arbitrators. 

13 types of civil litigation

Litigation covers a range of areas. Be sure to hire a legal representative that specialises in the relevant practice area because the process may differ depending on the dispute. The most common areas are:-  

  1. Personal injury 
  2. Medical malpractice 
  3. Marital law 
  4. Intellectual property 
  5. Employment and labour 
  6. Educational law 
  7. Tenancy disputes 
  8. Product liability 
  9. Environmental law 
  10. Construction issues 
  11. Real estate 
  12. Anti-trust law 
  13. Worker’s compensation 

              It is important to know that criminal charges are not resolved under civil litigation. As laws are broken, criminal litigation is brought by the state, while civil litigation is a private lawsuit between two parties. 

              Dealing with civil litigation and its process

              Within the jurisdiction of England & Wales, there are five stages to civil litigation that are prescribed by court rules. It’s important to ensure that any litigation matter follows these in this particular order:-  

              • 1.) Pre-action Protocol

                A party’s claim for a dispute must comply with CPR (Civil Procedure Rules). This includes sending a letter of claim to the other party and giving them a chance to respond. Parties are expected to engage and make an effort to resolve the dispute without involving the court, as civil litigation is a last resort. If no resolution is reached then civil litigation action is taken.  
              • 2.) Exchange of Statements

                The claimant issues a Claim Form which sets out their case and states the resolution they seek, such as monetary compensation. Once this is issued by the court, the defendant will have 14 days to file an Acknowledgement of Service. This is called the ‘Defence’. The court will then govern proceedings from this point on.  
              • 3.) Exchange of Evidence

                This is usually the first time that the parties appear before the court. Their representatives should have prepared documents and evidence for disclosure at the upcoming trial. Each party will be required to exchange witness statements under the timetable set out by the court. This can also include the exchange of ‘expert evidence’ – unbiased evidence given by an expert in the dispute’s legal area. 
              • 4.) Trial

                To ensure that both parties can attend the trial, they should have provided dates which they cannot make so that the court chooses a day that works for both sides. During the trial, the court will witness evidence and hear legal submissions. Judgement doesn’t usually happen during the trial. Instead, there will be a second hearing at court later on to announce the decision made.  
              • 5.) Post-Trial

                After judgement is announced, the party that was not in favour will be ordered by the court to fulfil any judgements made within a set period. However, they do have 14 days to appeal for a case review after the dispute was resolved. 

              Do civil cases always go to court?

              Civil litigation is considered a last resort both for the sake of the court’s time as well as the amicable outcome of a private dispute.  This is why the parties must demonstrate that an effort was made to engage and find an ADR – an Alternative Dispute Resolution before the case reaches the courts.  

              Thomas and Thomas Solicitors is a friendly, local law firm that has a unique insight and an inclusive approach to clients with years of experience. With a team of specialists in their specific legal field, the firm offers a range of legal services, including both civil litigation and criminal law.