Litigation is a legal process for resolving civil disputes, in which the dispute is resolved via the court system. It's a "last-resort" method of dispute resolution, as UK law requires that in most cases, people try and resolve their disputes out of court before attempting litigation.
Alternative Methods of Dispute Resolution
These include arbitration, mediation, and collaborative law. In each case, the focus is on allowing all parties involved in the dispute a chance to explain their position and how they would like to see the dispute resolved. As arbitration allows for the possibility of a legally-binding decision, this method is the one that most closely resembles the court system.
Litigation via the courts can be used to solve or regulate a wide variety of disputes, including commercial and consumer disputes, family and neighbourhood disputes, bankruptcy proceedings, property disputes, and disputes between landlords and tenants. In all cases, the disputing parties must try and reach an agreement via an alternative method before they can involve the court system.
There are three phases in the litigation process: pre-trial, the trial, and the post-trial phase.
The pre-trial phase is when the court system first becomes involved. This happens when one of the parties involved in a dispute starts legal proceedings by filing the relevant documents with the court. The person who files the documents is known as the claimant or plaintiff; the other party is the defendant. As the two parties prepare for the trial itself, they will work with their solicitors to gather evidence and witnesses in order to build a strong case.
During the trial, each party in the dispute is typically represented in court by their solicitor. The solicitor presents the evidence and examines witnesses if there are any. They also work to try and discredit or disprove the evidence presented by the opposing party.
In civil disputes, the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff. In order to win, their case must show that the defendant is more likely than not to be liable for the claim that the plaintiff is making.
Once all the evidence has been presented the judge hearing the case makes a legally-binding decision. Either party can lodge an appeal if they’re not happy with the decision, and if they have grounds to do so.