If your civil rights have been violated and you intend to pursue legal action against another person, it is important to understand that resolving the issue does not happen overnight. In fact, civil lawsuits can take years to resolve because there are a number of steps involved in a civil lawsuit.
In addition, there are several parties involved in the litigation process, from the lawyers who are representing you and the defendant, as well as the jury, the judges, clerks, and other individuals who work at the court. If the case is appealed, the process can take even longer. While the process can be time-consuming, you may still be entitled to financial compensation if you have been discriminated against. A skilled civil rights lawyer will assist you with every phase of the claims process.
What Are the Steps Involved in a Civil Rights Case?
There is a reason why civil rights cases take an average of two to three years to get to trial. Depending on the complexity of your case, the trial can last from days to several weeks. In most civil rights cases, the following steps must be taken before taking a case to court:
- Conducting an initial investigation and preparing for filing a lawsuit. This can take anywhere from one to three months.
- Initial filing and scheduling litigation with the court, which takes three to four months.
- Motions to dismiss, which involves briefing the court on certain legal issues that may pertain to the claim. This is a formal request for a court to dismiss a case. More than 97 percent of lawsuits are dismissed due to settlements. This can take four to 12 months.
- Discovery period, which involves gathering evidence from third party sources, interviewing witnesses and the other parties involved, and hiring experts to provide their medical or legal opinion about the case. This questioning may be done in person or in writing. This allows both parties to know what evidence is going to be presented at the trial. Taking depositions is one of the most common methods of discovery. Depositions are statements that are given under oath by an individual who is involved in the case. Other methods of discovery include subpoenaing, requesting that the defendant submit to a physical examination, and confirming that a document is genuine. This can last from six to nine months.
- Summary judgment, which is a judgment entered by a court for one party against another party without a trial. This process takes anywhere from six to 12 months.
- Trial preparation, which can take two to three months.
- The trial, which can take a few days or several weeks, depending on the nature of the case.
Why Is the Civil Lawsuit Process so Time-Consuming?
Whether a civil rights lawsuit is resolved by settlement or a trial, the process can be time-consuming for the reasons listed above. The following will provide a more thorough explanation as to why the process can take so long:
- The legal papers, or pleadings, are filed in the court at the beginning of a lawsuit. The complaint, or petition, provides an overview of your case, identifies the parties involved, states your legal claims, and provides the facts surrounding your claim.
- Once the complaint has been filed, the defendant is served with the complaint as a summons. It notifies the defendant that they are being sued. The complaint also includes a date by which the defendant must respond with an answer or seek to have the case dismissed. The delivery of the complaint is known as the “service of process.” Oftentimes, defendants may be hard to find, or they try to dodge the complaint. This can make it difficult to serve the defendant.
- The defendant has a certain number of days to respond to the complaint. If they have a counterclaim, this should be provided in writing in the counterclaims section and written in a manner similar to the complaint. You may respond to the complaint by filing a reply. If there are multiple defendants, each of whom has a dispute arising out of the incident, they may cross-claim each other. If a defendant is sued in a cross-claim, they will file an answer, which is similar to the response filed after the original complaint.
- Following the pleadings phase, pre-discovery motions are often made by one or more parties. For example, a motion to dismiss may be filed if a defendant believes that there is not sufficient evidence to support the claim. The court will review the facts and will consider the following factors:
- Lack of subject matter jurisdiction: The court does not have the power to rule on the controversy.
- Lack of personal jurisdiction: The court does not have the power to rule on decisions concerning the defendant personally.
- Improper venue: This refers to a specific location of the court.
- Insufficiency of process or insufficient service of process: If there is a technical defect in the summons or you were not properly served, the case may be dismissed.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Civil Rights Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations is the amount of time that an individual has to file a lawsuit or initiate a civil court procedure. In most cases, the timeline starts when the incident took place. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for filing a civil rights lawsuit is two years, and the clock starts ticking on the date that the incident occurred.
There are exceptions to the civil rights statute of limitations that may impact your case. For example, if a female employee discovers that a male employee earns 30 percent more than her, she may invoke the discovery rule. In this case, the clock would not start ticking until the point of discovery. In addition, the statute of limitation may be paused if the plaintiff is a minor or is physically or mentally incompetent.
Both parties may agree to shorten the statute of limitations, but this is uncommon. The process of filing a civil rights case can be confusing and overwhelming, and it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced civil rights lawyer. They will determine whether you have a legitimate claim, ensure that your legal rights are protected, and ensure that your claim is filed within the statute of limitations.
How Do I Select the Right Lawyer for My Case?
If you have decided to pursue legal action for your civil rights violation, it is imperative that you contact a lawyer who specializes in civil rights matters, including cases that are similar to yours. They should thoroughly explain every step of the claims process in a way that you can understand. The lawyer fees should be discussed upfront, and your lawyer should provide a realistic idea of a possible settlement amount and the costs associated with the case should the process take longer than expected.
There are also warning signs that you should be aware of before hiring a lawyer. For example, if they assure you that you are going to win the case or that the case will not cost more than a specified amount, you should reconsider hiring that person or firm. There is no guarantee when it comes to the law. In addition, one judge may handle the case differently and reach a different ruling than another judge. In some cases, judges make mistakes, particularly if there is a major backlog in the court system.
If the lawyer has a general lack of confidence in the area of law that is specific to your case, this is another warning sign. They should have a thorough understanding of the law, particularly as it relates to your case. In addition, they should be able to explain important aspects of your case in a way that you can understand.
If the lawyer makes you feel uncomfortable or does not seem to understand your personal goals and objectives, you should continue searching for a civil rights lawyer who does.
Virginia Beach Civil Rights Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Represent Clients With Civil Rights Lawsuits
If your civil rights have been violated, you are urged to contact our Virginia Beach civil rights lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC at your earliest convenience. We will ensure the legal process goes smoothly. To schedule an initial consultation, call us today at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore, Virginia. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.