In a federal civil case, two or more parties will ask a judge to determine if the defendant has caused harm to the plaintiff. The case begins with the plaintiff serving a copy of the complaint to the court as well as to the defendant. A complaint explains why the case has been filed, why that particular court has jurisdiction and what type of relief the plaintiff is seeking.

It is possible to ask for either a financial award or an order requiring the defendant to stop partaking in actions that are allegedly harming the plaintiff. While cases are typically heard by a jury, the party filing the lawsuit can ask for a bench trial. In a bench trial, the judge makes a ruling after hearing the evidence. A judge may ask that the parties in the matter attempt to settle the case before the trial begins.

In a civil case, a plaintiff must show that it was more likely than not that a defendant took actions that resulted in financial or other types of harm. Evidence such as witness testimony, photographs and other documents may be introduced during a civil matter. A court reporter will keep a record of all evidence introduced into a case as well as everything that is said during a trial. This is important as the record could be cited in an appeal.

A civil litigation attorney might assist a person or company seeking damages against another party. This attorney may review documents, call witnesses or take other steps to help a plaintiff obtain a favorable outcome at trial. An attorney may also be able to represent a plaintiff’s interests during settlement talks; negotiating a settlement may take less time than completing a trial.