Personal injury lawsuits related to defective drugs are processed by the civil justice system rather than the criminal justice system. These harmful acts are known as "torts."
If they are successful, tort-related lawsuits result in financial compensation. If you are considering a personal injury lawsuit or would like to know more about the legal process for defective drug lawsuits, you may wish to consult a trained attorney capable of assisting you with your case.
The civil justice system
The United States has two justice systems the criminal justice system and the civil justice system. These two systems operate using different rules.
In the criminal justice system, victims or witnesses report a crime to law enforcement. Prosecutors act on behalf of the state and are responsible for proving that the crime occurred "beyond a reasonable doubt."1
In the civil justice system, victims can sue people or organizations because of torts. Victims hire lawyers who may obtain settlements or trials on their behalf. Victims make decisions about how the case will proceed rather than allowing prosecutors to do so.1 If the victim has died, his or her relatives may pursue a lawsuit.
In civil lawsuits, lawyers are required to show a "preponderance of evidence." This means that the arguments of one side must be more persuasive than the arguments of the other. This is an easier standard to meet than are the requirements of a criminal lawsuit.1
The civil lawsuit process
According to the United States Courts website, the first step in a civil lawsuit involves a plaintiff filing a complaint and "serving" a copy of the complaint to the defendant.2 The complaint must include:
- A description of the plaintiff's injury
- An explanation of how the defendant caused the injury
- A request for the court to order compensation, order the defendant to take some other action, or provide another form of relief to the plaintiff
While preparing for a trial, the litigants may conduct "discovery." This phase of the process involves sharing information about the case, identifying witnesses, or filing requests with the court. Litigants may file depositions that require witnesses to give testimony in front of a court reporter.2
Judges encourage litigants to use mediation, arbitration, and other forms of alternative dispute resolution to prevent the necessity of holding a trial.2
If the litigants proceed to a trial, they may request a jury trial. Otherwise, the trial will be held by a judge with no jury. At a trial, witnesses testify one at a time, and a court reporter records their testimony. Attorneys may object to questions which they believe are irrelevant, prejudicial, or not related to the witnesses' expertise. The trial ends with closing arguments from each side. The jury and/or judge determine the defendants responsibility and the appropriate compensation, if any.2