Litigation means going to court and having your case heard and decided by either a Judge (a bench trial) or a Jury (jury trial). The stages of a lawsuit commence with the Plaintiff filing the complaint, which sets forth the legal basis of the suit or cause(s) of action.Superior Court of California — North County If you are the Defendant, you must answer the complaint, or be in default. The second stage of a lawsuit is called discovery, which is the means of gathering evidence from the opposing party in order to evaluate the merit of their claim or defense. During the process of the lawsuit, which may take approximately one year or more before actually going to trial, the Court schedules appearances which may require both parties and their attorneys to attend. Throughout a civil suit, you may have an opportunity to settle your case through what is referred to as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). While litigation can be expensive, both emotionally and financially, ADR has the advantages of being more cost effective, less time consuming and stressful. ADR allows both parties to come to a negotiated settlement, as opposed to a trial. Deborah F. Bayus, Esq. has experience in mediation and arbitration, as well as in litigation.