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Steps of the Litigation Process X Linda Ray Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of research

and reporting experience. She has covered health care and fitness for newspapers an d magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success," "Verve" and "American C ity Business Journals." Ray has also reported on hospitals, commercial developme nt and society. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. By Linda Ray, eHow Contributor Print this article 1. Pre-trial o Litigation is the act of suing someone or bringing a lawsuit against a p erson or company for a perceived wrong. A civil lawsuit can be settled out of co urt, or it can follow the steps of the litigation process. Before starting the l itigation process, the wronged party, or plaintiff, usually tries to come to an agreement to resolve the conflict and avoid litigation. If no settlement can be agreed upon, the plaintiff files a complaint with the court and a copy is sent t o the other party, or defendant, in the form of a summons. The defendant is give n time to respond to the complaint. Once on notice, the defendant may choose to settle the case. A judge may order the suit into arbitration, in which a third p arty attempts to help the parties come to a compromise, or the case moves on to the next step. Representation o Many people hire an attorney to take care of the filing of the complaint and remain on the case for the entire process. Others choose a lawyer when they realize they will be going to court. The lawyer spends time reviewing the merit s of the case, researching other legal precedents that may affect the outcome of the complaint, interviewing witnesses and gathering facts. Discovery takes plac e between the representatives of both parties. They share information formally t hrough written requests. Each attorney may choose to interview the other party's witnesses in a deposition. During a deposition, the witnesses are under oath an d the proceedings are recorded by a court reporter. Expert witnesses are found t o testify for both sides about technical issues or bring their expertise to bear on the argument of either side by explaining what happened from their perspecti ve. Both sides typically file motions to clarify procedures and resolve disputes prior to the trial. Sometimes evidence is asked to be held back or an attorney requests a summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss the case before it cont inues any further based on evidence that's been gathered. Trial o A trial may be held in front of a jury or a judge. If a jury trial is re quested, both sides are offered an opportunity to interview the potential jurors and ask that biased or unfriendly jurors be excluded from participating. The pr ocess of jury selection is called voir dire. During the trial, both sides presen t their evidence. The plaintiff's side goes first, and witnesses are called to t estify, then cross-examined by the opposing counsel. After both sides present th eir evidence and witnesses, the attorneys speak to the jury in closing arguments that summarize their cases. The jury then leaves the room and enters a private place where they discuss the case and decide on a verdict. Once a decision has b een reached, the losing party may ask for the decision to be changed by the judg e. Reasons for setting aside the verdict include errors that were made during th e trial or the jury's disregard for the law. The losing party also may appeal th e decision and request another court to review the case. An appeal can prolong t he litigation process for up to a year or more.