Why Most Cases Are Resolved Before Litigation

What Does “Litigation” Mean?

Litigation simply refers to the process by which disputes are resolved through the use of a court system. In litigation cases, the outcome is determined through the court process, rather than any of the various out-of-court processes (such as arbitration, collaborative law, or mediation). Typically, litigation cases arise within high-conflict cases where neither side can come to much common ground. Though litigation cases are the ones that we see most on crime dramas and movies, they are actually relatively rare (only about 5% of pending lawsuits end in a trial).


Why Do Most Cases Get Resolved Before Litigation?

With over 95% of cases being settled before they go to trial, there has to be a reason right? Well, the litigation process is costly, time-consuming, and risky (namely, that you could lose the case). That is why many cases settle, but others may also use pre-trial motions to obtain accelerated judgments (i.e. motions for summary judgment, motions to dismiss, etc.).


How Long Does the Litigation Process Take?

Some lawsuits can be resolved quickly (within a couple of months), but for more complex cases, the litigation process often takes years. For the most extreme cases, such as corporal punishment, the litigation process can take decades to get a final verdict. The process can also take longer for even the most boilerplate cases if the courts are unable to handle the volume of cases being presented.


How Expensive Is Litigation?

Again, the costs of the litigation process vary drastically from case to case, so there’s no easy answer for this. Typically, litigation will become more expensive than out-of-court processes though, as you often do not have full control over the costs associated with bringing a case to trial. 


I’ve Lost My Litigated Case, Do I Have A Right To Appeal?

An appeal is typically an option in most cases. That being said, filing for an appeal does not necessarily mean that you’ll receive a second trial. Within the appeal process, the appeals court must decide if there is was a proper legal basis for the trial Court’s initial decision. Only if the appeals court finds irregularities will you receive a second trial.


What Are the Alternatives To Litigation?

Also known as ‘alternative dispute resolution,’ there are several routes that you could potentially take in lieu of litigation. Some of the more common routes are below:


This is just how it sound, you come to a compromise with the opposing party that both deem fit. This usually takes the form of an early settlement within lawsuits.


Mediation is when a trained mediator (typically a former judge or lawyer), facilitates the negotiation, but does not make any binding decision and leaves the decision-making process up to the parties.


Arbitration is when a professional arbitrator facilitates the negotiation, but is also given the power to impose binding decisions to both parties. This route keeps you out of the courts, but often the costs are only a little bit less than if the case goes to trial.


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Revised: April 12, 2016, 10:20 p.m.
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