Civil lawsuits are filed daily in courthouses across the country. Companies sue customers for not paying their bills. Landlord to sue delinquent renters, neighbors sue one another over petty disagreements, and attorneys file personal injury lawsuits against insurance companies, manufacturers, and business owners. But then what?
Filing a civil lawsuit starts a long and complicated legal process that could go in one of many directions. Immediately after filing, the defendant in the lawsuit must be served with a summons. Here they usually has a certain amount of time to respond. After that, there are four possible outcomes:
1. The Suit Gets Dismissed
In most cases, civil courts have the power to determine whether to allow a lawsuit to go forward. Suits are sometimes dismissed before going to trial. Dismissal could be based on a lack of standing, a finding that the suit is frivolous, or other grounds legally recognized by the court.
Depending on how the original case is dismissed, plaintiffs may have the opportunity to bring a second suit. But if the suit is dismissed with prejudice, that’s it. A second lawsuit based on the same complaint cannot be pursued. Any additional attempts to get relief are also denied.
2. The Parties Settle Out Of Court
Assuming that the court allows a lawsuit to move forward, an actual trial is not guaranteed. Why? Because the two parties can settle out of court. This is often the case when a defendant’s attorney is fairly confident of two things:
- A loss in court; and
- Settling makes more financial sense.
Insurance companies are known to settle out of court when they know they will lose and they believe their financial losses will be less by avoiding trial. Settling out of court is also advantageous to a defendant who wants to protect their reputation.
3. A Default Judgment Is Entered
When the parties do not settle out of court, a case ultimately goes to trial. But it is not always a given that both parties will actively participate. Not showing up in court is fairly common for defendants. They neither arrive to court on the designated date nor send an attorney on their behalf.
A defendant’s failure to show results in a default judgment being entered against them. A default judgment is similar to a forfeiture in sports. If the defendant is a no-show, they have no opportunity to dispute the plaintiff’s claims. The end result is that the court had no other choice but to rule in favor of the plaintiff. The plaintiff wins by default.
4. The Court Decides Between the Two Parties
Last but not least, a full trial with both parties present results in the court deciding between the two. It is not always a black-and-white decision in which one party is completely at fault while the other is not. Sometimes fault is attributed to both parties.
In either case, there are ramifications. A win by the defendant means no further claims against them. The plaintiff will probably have to pay the defendant’s legal costs. But a win by the plaintiff often results in a monetary judgment against the defendant.
Monetary judgments can be collected by plaintiffs, their attorneys, or organizations like Salt Lake City-based Judgment Collectors. As a Utah collection agency specializing in judgments, Judgment Collectors becomes an agent of record as soon as they accept a case.
There is a lot more to civil lawsuits than most people know. One thing is for certain: things are rarely wrapped up as neatly and quickly as you see on TV.