The basics of civil trials

Trials in civil lawsuits happen less frequently than many of our readers probably think. The sheer number of lawsuits filed in California and the feasibility of alternative dispute resolution in many cases means that, in all likelihood, the vast majority of civil cases never need to go to trial. But, when they do, the stakes are high and both sides are looking for positive results. Understanding the basics of how a civil trial works can be beneficial for any business in California that is involved in litigation.

Basic trial process

So, what are the basics of a trial in a civil case? Well, if it is a jury trial, the first step is the selection of jurors. This process ensures that the jurors who are selected can hear the evidence and arguments in the case impartially and follow the law. Once the jury is impaneled, the theater of trial can begin.

Opening statements start things out. This is a chance for the attorneys on both sides to give an overview of the case and provide details of what evidence is expected to be admitted – and what that evidence will prove. From there, the actual presentation of evidence can begin. This is when witnesses are called to testify and exhibits are admitted into evidence.

After all evidence has been presented and admitted, the parties get to make closing arguments. This is a last chance for the attorneys on both sides to sum up the case and attempt to persuade the jury on how they should rule. Once the closing arguments are completed, the judge who is presiding in the case will provide the jury with specific instructions about the applicable law in the case. Then, the jury will retire to deliberate and, hopefully, reach a verdict in the case.