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Court Decisions in Civil Lawsuits Explained [2024 Guide]

Use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for a Civil Lawsuit Claim.

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Written By:
Tor Hoerman
Tor Hoerman

Attorney Tor Hoerman, admitted to the Illinois State Bar Association since 1995 and The Missouri Bar since 2009, specializes nationally in mass tort litigations. Locally, Tor specializes in auto accidents and a wide variety of personal injury incidents occuring in Illinois and Missouri.

This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy and clarity by the team of writers and attorneys at TorHoerman Law and is as accurate as possible. This content should not be taken as legal advice from an attorney. If you would like to learn more about our owner and experienced injury lawyer, Tor Hoerman, you can do so here.

TorHoerman Law does everything possible to make sure the information in this article is up to date and accurate. If you need specific legal advice about your case, contact us. This article should not be taken as advice from an attorney.

A Guide to Court Decisions in Civil Lawsuits

On this page, we’ll discuss court decisions in civil lawsuits, different types of decisions in civil cases, the steps involved in civil lawsuit decisions, the context for personal injury cases, and much more.

Civil Court Decisions: Steps, Processes, and Important Elements

Navigating the legal process of civil lawsuits can be complex and daunting, especially when understanding court decisions.

In civil litigation, court decisions are pivotal in determining the outcome of cases, including personal injury lawsuits.

Whether made by a judge or a jury, these decisions can have significant ramifications for all parties involved.

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If you’re involved in a personal injury lawsuit, it’s crucial to understand the steps and processes involved in court decisions and the critical elements that can influence the outcome of your case.

This knowledge can help you make informed decisions and set realistic expectations for your case.

At TorHoerman Law, we understand the importance of clarity and guidance in legal matters.

We are dedicated to helping individuals navigate the complexities of civil litigation, including understanding court decisions.

Whether you’re pursuing compensation for a personal injury or seeking resolution in another civil matter, we’re here to provide the context you need.

Contact us for a free consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for a civil lawsuit instantly.

Table of Contents

Understanding Court Decisions

Court decisions in civil litigation encompass the outcomes determined by a judge or jury after a trial.

These decisions can take various forms, including judgments, verdicts, and settlements.

Each type of decision carries unique implications and consequences for the parties involved.


Judgments are final rulings made by a judge in a bench trial, meaning no jury is involved.

These rulings are based on the evidence presented and the applicable law, determining liability, awarding damages, or dismissing claims altogether.

The judge may enter a judgment for both the plaintiff and the defendant.

In a personal injury lawsuit, for example, the judge may enter a judgment for the plaintiff to receive compensation from the defendant.

A judge may enter several types of judgments in a civil lawsuit, including:

  • Summary Judgment: A judgment made by the court without a trial, based on evidence and arguments presented before trial
  • Default Judgment: A judgment entered against a party who neglects to appear or respond to legal documents
  • Declaratory Judgment: A judgment stating the rights and obligations of the parties involved in a dispute
  • Injunction Judgment: A judgment ordering a party to take or refrain from taking specific actions
  • Interlocutory Judgment: A partial judgment that addresses specific issues in a case before the judge makes a final decision
  • Final Judgment: The ultimate decision of the court, often given at the end of a trial or after all appeals have been exhausted

An example of a judgement:

The defendant’s attorney seeks to disprove the plaintiff’s claims and files a motion to summary judgment.

If the judge grants the motion, the court’s decision will favor the defendant, dismissing the plaintiff’s case.

If the plaintiff prevails, the judge may decide to take the case to trial and enter a final judgment awarding damages.


Verdicts are decisions made after deliberating on all the evidence and arguments presented during the jury trial.

Unlike in judgments, the jury makes the verdicts.

The judge must still approve the verdict before it becomes official.

The judge may still have the power to overrule a verdict or, under unique circumstances, order a new trial if necessary.

The jury deliberation process involves discussing the evidence presented, reaching a decision, and communicating that decision to the court.

Verdicts can either be unanimous, where all jurors agree on the decision, or majority, when at least two-thirds of the jurors reach a consensus.

If a jury cannot arrive at a verdict, it is considered a “hung jury,” and the case may have to be retried with a new jury.

Different types of verdicts include: 

  • General Verdict: A verdict that speaks to all issues in the case, including liability and damages
  • Special Verdict: A verdict that answers specific questions related to the case, with the judge deciding the final outcome based on those responses
  • Directed Verdict: A verdict ordered by the judge when there is no evidence to support a claim made by one party


Settlements are voluntary agreements between parties involved in a civil lawsuit to resolve the dispute outside of court without going to trial.

They typically involve monetary compensation that one party agrees to pay the other in exchange for dropping the lawsuit.

Settlements can occur at any stage of the litigation process, and most commonly are agreed to before a case goes to trial.

Many states require parties to attempt mediation or some form of alternative dispute resolution before going to trial.

This negotiation can help the parties reach a satisfactory settlement and avoid the time, expense, and uncertainty of a court decision.

Settlements can also happen during or after a trial before a final decision.

Settlement agreements are legally binding and must be approved by the court to ensure all parties have fulfilled their obligations.

Most cases in civil courts are resolved through settlements, making it essential to civil litigation.

Judge Vs. Jury Decisions

One fundamental distinction in civil litigation is whether a judge or a jury makes the final decision.

In a bench trial, the judge presides over the case and ultimately decides the outcome based on the law and the facts presented.

A jury trial involves a panel of impartial jurors who assess the evidence, listen to arguments from both sides, and reach a verdict collectively.

The choice between a judge or jury trial can depend on various factors, including:

  • The Complexity of the Case: Cases involving technical or complicated issues may benefit from a judge’s expertise and understanding of the law.
  • The Nature of the Case: Some cases are more emotional in nature, such as personal injury claims, and may require a jury to determine damages.
  • The Parties Involved: In some cases, one party may want a jury trial while the other prefers a bench trial. If they cannot agree, the judge determines which type of trial will be used.
  • Strategic Considerations: Attorneys may choose a jury trial if they believe the jurors will be more sympathetic to their client’s case or if they want to delay proceedings.

Consider a personal injury lawsuit stemming from a car accident.

The plaintiff, injured in the accident, may feel confident in presenting their case to a jury, hoping to elicit empathy and understanding.

The defendant, facing potential liability and damages, may prefer a bench trial where the judge’s legal expertise may carry more weight.

The choice between a judge or jury trial will ultimately depend on the specific circumstances of each case.

This decision can significantly impact the outcome of a civil lawsuit.

It is crucial for parties to carefully evaluate their options and work with experienced attorneys to achieve the best possible outcome in civil litigation.

Verdicts in Civil Trials

In civil trials, verdicts are the culmination of the jury deliberation process.

After hearing testimony, reviewing physical evidence, and listening to arguments from both sides, jurors retire to deliberate on the case’s merits.

Depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the case, verdicts may require unanimity or a majority decision among the jurors.

The deliberation process is critical, as jurors must weigh the evidence presented, assess the credibility of witnesses, and apply the law as instructed by the judge.

The jury’s verdict reflects its collective determination of the facts and its application of the law to those facts.

The jury deliberation process often goes as follows:

  • The jury votes on one juror to act as the foreperson to lead the deliberations and communicate with the court.
  • They review all the evidence presented, including witness testimony and physical exhibits.
  • They discuss their overall impressions of the case and any issues they may have with specific evidence or arguments.
  • Once discussions are complete, jurors take a vote on the verdict. If it is not unanimous or majority, they continue deliberating until they reach a consensus.
  • The foreperson then informs the court of their decision, and the judge approves the verdict into a legally binding judgment.

In civil trials, the jury’s verdict may include several elements, such as finding liability, determining damages, and specifying any other relief granted to the plaintiff.

Once the judge approves, this verdict becomes the court’s official decision, which all parties involved must follow.

In a criminal case, jury members must find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to reach a verdict.

In a civil case, the standard of proof is lower, requiring only a preponderance of evidence.

This standard means that the jury must determine whether it is more likely than not that the plaintiff’s claims are valid.

In a medical malpractice case, the jury may deliberate on whether the defendant healthcare provider breached the standard of care owed to the plaintiff, resulting in injury or harm.

Before reaching their verdict, jurors must carefully consider expert testimony, medical records, and other evidence.

The verdict may include financial compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

A personal injury verdict may also result in financial damages, but the jury must consider factors such as comparative negligence.

This principle allows a jury to reduce the plaintiff’s damages if they find their actions contributed to the injury.


Settlements offer an alternative avenue for resolving civil disputes without the need for a trial or court decision.

In personal injury lawsuits, settlements are typical and can provide various benefits for both plaintiffs and defendants.

A settlement typically involves negotiations between the parties, facilitated by their attorneys or mediators.

The terms of the settlement may include:

  • Monetary compensation
  • Agreements regarding liability or fault
  • Other provisions to resolve the underlying dispute

Once both parties agree to the terms, they sign a legal document called a settlement agreement.

A civil lawsuit settlement offers several advantages, such as:

  • Cost Savings: Trials can be lengthy and expensive, with legal fees, expert witness fees, and other expenses. Settling the case can avoid these costs altogether.
  • Time Efficiency: Settling the case can also save time, as trials may take months or even years to reach a verdict. Parties involved can reach a settlement much quicker, resolving the dispute and allowing them to move on.
  • Privacy: Settlements are often confidential and do not become part of the public record, providing privacy for both parties involved in the dispute.
  • Flexibility: In a settlement, the parties have more control over the outcome and can negotiate terms that may not be possible in court.

A personal injury settlement is crucial for protecting the plaintiff’s rights and ensuring they receive fair compensation for their injuries.

A trial can take away time and resources that the plaintiff may need to focus on their recovery.

A settlement allows them to move on with their life without the added stress of a trial.

Whether to opt for a trial or consider a settlement is a decision that parties should make after carefully considering their goals and the case’s specific circumstances.

Both options have their benefits and drawbacks, and it is up to the parties involved to determine the best course of action for resolving their dispute.

Enforcement of Court Decisions

Once the court renders its decision, it must be enforced to ensure compliance and uphold the rule of law.

In civil litigation, enforcement mechanisms may include the collection of judgments, court orders, and other legal remedies.

If a plaintiff obtains a monetary judgment against a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit, the defendant may be required to pay the awarded damages.

If the defendant fails to comply voluntarily, the plaintiff can seek enforcement through various means, such as wage garnishment, property liens, or other legal actions.

The court plays a crucial role in overseeing the enforcement process and ensuring that parties adhere to the terms of the decision.

Judges may issue orders, enforce contempt proceedings, or impose sanctions to compel compliance and uphold the judicial system’s integrity.

The court may also order specific performance, which requires a party to fulfill their obligations as outlined in the decision.

If the court grants the plaintiff a particular performance of the contract terms in a contract dispute, the defendant must follow through with their contractual duties.

Enforcing court decisions is essential for maintaining justice and fairness in civil litigation.

It checks the parties involved and ensures that legal decisions are not disregarded or ignored.

Appeals and Modifications

In certain circumstances, parties may seek to challenge or modify a court decision through the appellate process.

Appeals typically involve a review of the trial court’s decision by a higher court, which evaluates whether legal errors occurred or substantial evidence supports the decision.

Grounds for appeal may include errors in the application of law, procedural irregularities, or newly discovered evidence that could affect the case outcome.

The appellate court has the authority to affirm, reverse, or modify the trial court’s decision, allowing parties to seek justice and redress grievances.

If a party believes that the trial court erroneously admitted or excluded crucial evidence, they may file an appeal arguing for a reversal or modification of the decision.

If new evidence undermines the original decision’s validity, the party may seek to reopen the case for further proceedings.

The Importance of Skilled Attorneys

Skilled legal representation is indispensable in navigating court decisions in civil lawsuits.

Attorneys with expertise in civil litigation can provide invaluable guidance, advocacy, and strategic counsel to help clients achieve favorable outcomes.

Skilled lawyers are crucial in navigating the complexities of the legal system, ensuring that clients’ rights are protected and their cases are presented effectively.

Experienced attorneys possess the knowledge and expertise to craft persuasive arguments, negotiate settlements, and advocate in court.

Their understanding of legal procedures and ability to anticipate and counter opposing arguments can make a significant difference in the resolution of legal disputes.

At TorHoerman Law, our experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights and interests of our clients in personal injury cases and other civil matters.

We understand the nuances of court decisions and leverage our knowledge and resources to pursue justice for those we represent.

Whether you’re facing a personal injury lawsuit, seeking to enforce a court decision, or exploring options for resolution, our firm is here to provide the support and representation you need.

We are committed to advocating tirelessly on your behalf and securing the best possible outcome for your case.

TorHoerman Law: Experienced Civil Lawsuit Lawyers

If you’re navigating a personal injury case or seeking resolution in a civil dispute, TorHoerman Law will provide experienced legal guidance and representation.

Our team will assist you every step of the way, from initial consultations to courtroom advocacy and beyond.

With our track record of success and dedication to client satisfaction, you can trust TorHoerman Law to fight relentlessly for your rights and interests.

Let us help you navigate the complexities of court decisions and pursue the justice and compensation you deserve.

Contact us for a free consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for a civil lawsuit instantly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the different types of court decisions in civil lawsuits?

    In civil cases, court decisions can range from summary judgments, where the court decides the case based on the evidence presented without a full trial, to declaratory judgments that define the legal relationship and rights between parties.

    Other decisions include directed verdicts during a jury trial, preliminary injunctions that order a party to act or refrain from acting, and final judgments after a full trial that resolve the dispute based on the preponderance of the evidence.

    Personal injury, child custody, and breach of contract cases in civil courts can result in either monetary damages or specific performance orders.

  • How is a decision reached in a civil lawsuit?

    A decision in a civil lawsuit is reached after both the plaintiff and defendant present their cases through opening statements, direct and cross-examination of witnesses, and closing arguments.

    In a jury trial, the jury deliberates based on the evidence and the judge’s instructions on the law.

    In a bench trial, the judge directly decides the outcome after evaluating all presented evidence and legal arguments.

    The standard used is typically the preponderance of the evidence, which is less stringent than the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • What factors influence a court's decision in a civil case?

    Factors influencing a court’s decision in a civil case include the credibility of the evidence, the reliability of witness testimony, the relevance of physical evidence, and the applicable federal or state laws.

    The judge or jury evaluates the plaintiff’s claims and the defendant’s defenses, considering the legal standards and precedents set by previous court decisions.

    The effectiveness of the plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorney in making their case can also significantly impact the decision.

  • Can a court decision in a civil lawsuit be challenged or appealed?

    A court decision in a civil lawsuit can be challenged or appealed by the losing party filing a notice of appeal in an appellate court, typically within a specific time frame after the decision.

    The appellate court reviews the trial court proceedings for legal errors, considering the arguments in the appellant’s and appellee’s briefs and sometimes oral arguments.

    The appeal can lead to affirmation, reversal, modification of the lower court’s decision, or remand for a new trial.

  • What is the significance of a court decision in a personal injury civil case?

    A court decision in a personal injury civil case determines liability and the extent of the plaintiff’s damages, which can include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and sometimes punitive damages.

    The decision establishes legal precedents and clarifies the rights and obligations of both parties, often leading to a final settlement or court-ordered compensation.

    It serves as a legal resolution of the dispute and can influence future civil lawsuits in similar circumstances.

Written By:
Tor Hoerman

Tor Hoerman

Owner & Attorney - TorHoerman Law

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