The process of a civil trial can be broken down into five main steps: pleadings, discovery, motions, trial, and appeal.




The pleadings stage is an important part of any civil lawsuit. It is during this stage that the parties set out their respective positions and arguments, laying the groundwork for the rest of the case. If you are involved in a civil lawsuit, it is important to understand the pleadings stage and what is happening in your case.

Pleadings can take many different forms, depending on the circumstances of the case. In a simple breach of contract case, for example, the parties might file a Complaint and an Answer. The Complaint is the document that starts the lawsuit, and it describes the basic facts of the case. The Answer is a response to the Complaint, and it sets out the defendant’s arguments in defense of the case.

In more complicated cases, the pleadings stage can involve multiple rounds of filings and counter-filings. The exact nature of the pleadings will depend on the specific facts and issues of each case.




The process of discovery allows each party in a legal case to gather evidence from the other side. This can be done through written questions, questioning witnesses under oath, and requests for documents. Discovery can be a crucial part of preparing for a trial and can help uncover important information that may not have otherwise been known.




Motions are legal arguments made by either party before or during trial. These arguments can ask the court to make a ruling on an issue in the case, or they can be used to try to impeach the credibility of an opposing witness.

There are a few different types of motions that can be made during trial. These include:

  • Motions to strike: These ask the court to remove evidence from the record that is not relevant or that has been obtained illegally.
  • Motions for continuance: These motions ask the court to postpone the trial so that the party making the motion can have more time to prepare.
  • Motions in limine: These ask the court to rule on an issue before trial begins. These can be used to try to exclude evidence that may be harmful to the party making the motion.
  • Motions for judgment as a matter of law: These motions ask the court to rule in favor of the party making the motion, without a trial. This can be done if the party believes that there is not enough evidence to support their case.
  • Motions for a mistrial: These motions ask the court to declare a mistrial. This can be done if there is something that happens during the trial that makes it impossible to continue.
  • Motions to set aside the verdict: These ask the court to overturn the jury’s verdict. This can be done if the party believes that the verdict is not supported by the evidence.




The trial is the most important event in a civil case. The parties present their evidence and arguments to the judge and jury, and the judge decides who wins. A trial can be very complex, with many legal arguments and procedures. It’s important to have an experienced lawyer representing you in court. Note that if you don’t have a lawyer in a criminal case, the court will appoint one for you. The trial usually takes place in a courtroom, but sometimes it can be held in an alternative location, such as a conference room. The judge and jury are usually present at the trial, but sometimes the judge will make a decision without a jury, this is called a bench trial.

The first step in a civil trial is the opening statement, where each side tells the jury what they expect to prove during the trial. Then, the plaintiff presents their evidence first. The defendant then has a chance to present their evidence. After both sides have rested their case, they give closing arguments. Finally, the judge or jury deliberates and renders a verdict. If the verdict is for the plaintiff, the jury will award damages. If the verdict is for the defendant, the case will be dismissed.


If you’re involved in a civil trial, here are some things to keep in mind:


  • The trial is the most important event in the case. Make sure you’re prepared and know what to expect.
  • Be sure to attend all of the hearings and trial dates, unless your attorney tells you not to. If you don’t, the court may dismiss your case.
  • Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for what could be a long and difficult process.
  • Make sure you have an experienced lawyer representing you who knows the law and can help you win your case.




Once the trial is over, either party can appeal the decision to a higher court if they are not happy with the outcome. This is because the law is constantly evolving and changing, so there is always a chance that a higher court will see things differently than the lower court did. Appeals can be a lengthy and complicated process, so it is important to consult with an experienced attorney if you are considering this option.