What is Trial Litigation?

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  • Written By: Stephanie B. Mojica
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 26 January 2020
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Trial litigation is when a legal case or lawsuit goes on trial, rather than being dismissed or settled out of court. Whether it is for a criminal case such as murder or a civil case like a personal injury lawsuit, trial litigation requires all involved parties to meet specific procedural codes. Courtrooms are the usual venues for trials. A judge always presides over legal matters, and many trials have a jury of people to decide the case's outcome.

In some types of trial litigation, one of the involved parties can request a jury trial. Most countries declare the person filing the complaint the "plaintiff." In the event that a community has filed a murder charge against a person, then the people of that jurisdiction become the plaintiff. The "defendant" is the person or entity that risks losing either freedom, money, property or some other claim because of the alleged acts that were committed.

Throughout the world, lawyers, attorneys or barristers represent plaintiffs and defendants during multiple phases of trial litigation. In a divorce case, for example, the lawyer and his or her staff will prepare all required legal documents, arrange for the paperwork to be filed within the appropriate court and arrange for someone to serve the divorce papers to the other party. Lawyers then represent each party in court during the trial.


The plaintiff must remain involved in the process for maximum benefit during the trial litigation phase. He or she can ask an attorney to call forth or subpoena specific witnesses that can bolster any claims made. The plaintiff also should discuss with his or her legal representation any possible “surprises,” such as domestic assault claims that the defendant can bring up in his or her defense inside the courtroom.

Trial litigation for criminal matters is slightly more complex but follows many of the same basic guidelines. Before police arrest a suspect in most countries, they must have proof that the person committed a crime. Then an attorney for the people, or a prosecutor, reviews the evidence. If the case is handed over for trial litigation, then the defendant must keep in mind that he or she might be in jeopardy of going to jail.

Some offenses, such as drunken driving, can call for less than a year in jail. The actual sentence depends on the nature of the offense, the country in which it was committed and the defendant’s past criminal record. Other crimes such as sexual assault and murder can draw sentences in excess of 20 years in prison. Some crimes, such as murder or treason against one’s country, are considered “capital” offenses and can lead to defendant’s execution under some countries' death penalty laws.


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