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What are the Stages of a Trial?

what-are-the-stages-of-a-trial-attorney-reed-bloodworthjpgWhat do the terms trial, arbitration, mediation, verdict, and settlement mean? I’m asked the question “what are the stages of a trial?” And it’s common to ask as clients are often confused as to a number of terms pertaining to lawsuits. Sometimes it’s the very stages of lawsuits. So let’s run through some of those terms.

What is a Trial?

Let’s start with trial. What is a trial? A trial is usually the end result of a lawsuit that was filed in state or federal court. Trial means that all the other parts of the lawsuit have taken place.

What are the Stages of a Trial?

  1. Pleadings
  2. Complaint
  3. Answer
  4. Discovery
  5. Depositions

There were pleadings such as a complaint and an answer. There was discovery that took place. Depositions, requests for production and things of that nature.

Summary Judgment

And issues survived motions for summary judgment which means that the judge did NOT resolve some of the issues. The issues that remain go to trial.

What is a Trial By Jury?

And a trial can be either a jury trial meaning that the testimony will take place before a jury. In most instances here in Florida the jury will consist of six people.

What is a Bench Trial?

Or a bench trial meaning the judge will be the only person to hear the testimony.

What is Arbitration?

The next term clients sometimes do not understand is arbitration. Think of arbitration as a private lawsuit. When in arbitration the parties hire a private arbiter or potentially a panel of arbiters and they are for all intents and purposes the judge for the case.

You’ll do the same types of things in arbitration that you would do in a lawsuit. You’ll have a complaint and an answer and you’ll take discovery. And then for the trial phase, everything would be before the arbitrator or the panel of arbitrators.

Typically when in arbitration, the parties must pay the arbiter or the panel of arbiters by the hour. And at the end of arbitration you’d have the same type of result as you would as if you’d gone to trial.

The arbitrator will issue his ruling much like a jury or the judge would issue their finding at the end of the trial.

What is Mediation?

The next term is mediation. What is mediation? Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution mechanism. Mediation can take place in a lawsuit in state or federal court or during the course of an arbitration.

In a mediation the parties hire a neutral third party, a mediator, to assist the parties in attempting to reach a resolution of all the issues in the lawsuit.

What typically happens at mediation is that the mediator meets with the parties at the beginning. All of the parties will be in one main room. Each party will give an opening statement to the mediator and then the parties will divide up into separate rooms.

The mediator will then meet with each party individually and relay offers and counteroffers to the different parties throughout the course of the mediation.

And it is the mediator’s job to try and assist the parties with reaching a settlement that would resolve the entire lawsuit. Mediation has proven to be a very effective way of resolving lawsuits.

What is a Verdict?

The next term is verdict. What is a verdict? A verdict is what occurs at the end of a trial. If the plaintiff files a lawsuit and carries it all the way through trial and wins, the jury will have rendered a verdict stating that the plaintiff has succeeded on his or her claims and is entitled to a certain amount of relief as a result.

What is a Settlement?

The next term is what is a settlement? A settlement is a resolution of a lawsuit without going to trial. Settlement means that the parties were able to resolve their dispute either during a mediation or outside of a mediation and that the entire lawsuit has been resolved.

So that’s what the terms trial, arbitration, mediation, verdict, and settlement mean and I hope this was helpful. If you have more questions you can call and ask. That’s what I’m here for as an attorney. You should always feel comfortable asking questions because cases are complicated.

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