Litigation is one way to settle civil disputes between parties. A civil dispute is one that does not rise to the level of criminality. Where assault or robbery are criminal matters, disputes over unpaid debts are civil matters. Knowing the difference between the two is step number one.

It takes a lot to file and win a civil lawsuit. As any attorney will tell you, it is important to count the cost before you get started. Otherwise, you could invest a tremendous amount of time and money on litigation that doesn’t achieve the result you want.

With that in mind, here are five important things to do before you file a civil lawsuit:

1. Hire an Attorney

It is always a good idea to go to court with an attorney at your side. An attorney offers you legal representation from start to finish. They represent you before the court and the other side’s attorneys. Going to court without an attorney is possible, but it does not make a lot of sense.

2. Determine the Correct Court

Civil litigation takes place in local, county, state, and federal courts. There are also different kinds of courts depending on the type of case you need to file. Consider small claims court, it is one of the most commonly utilized courts for settling minor disputes.

Note that small claims court is so named for a reason. If you are making a monetary claim against the other party, the total size of your claim will be limited in small claims court. Also note that certain types of lawsuits are not allowed. For example, a mortgage lender could not turn to small claims court to repossess the home of a delinquent customer.

3. Determine the Relief You’re After

Civil courts do not render verdicts or issue sentences. Instead, they determine liability. When liability is assigned, courts render decisions that offer some sort of relief. This matters because there are different types of lawsuits depending on the relief that you’re after. You need to figure that out.

If you are after a financial award, you’re going to seek a money judgment. If you need to settle a contract dispute in a way that does not involve a monetary award, a declaratory judgment may be what you’re after. You might be after equitable relief if your dispute involves intellectual property.

4. Make Plans for Enforcement

Should you actually win your lawsuit, you will have to proceed to enforcement. Courts only get involved in enforcement efforts if additional legal action is required. Other than that, you are on your own. Make plans for enforcement before you get started.

For instance, Salt Lake City’s Judgment Collectors could act as your agent to collect a money judgment in any of the 11 states they operate in. If you are looking for equitable relief, enforcement is best left up to your attorney.

5. Confirm That You Are Willing to Lose

One last thing to do before filing a civil lawsuit is confirming to yourself that you are willing to lose. If you tend to be someone who does not deal with loss very well, you might want to reconsider. Why? Because filing a lawsuit is no guarantee of actually winning. You could lose both the suit and the time and money you invest in it.

Civil litigation is a helpful tool for settling disputes. But there is a lot that goes into it. Before you file a lawsuit, be sure you know exactly what you are getting into. Count the cost or you might end up regretting it later on.