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Definition - What does Appeal mean?

An appeal is a request filed by the defendant or plaintiff with a higher or superior court to review a case which has been decided in a lower court. The appeal is the final step in the civil trial process.

How do we get to the appeal?

The first step in a civil case is for the plaintiff to file a complaint against the defendant. The complaint identifies the losses or injuries the plaintiff believes were caused by the defendant’s actions. The complaint also outlines the relief the plaintiff expects from the defendant.

Most civil cases are settled out of court where both parties try to resolve their dispute through negotiations- mediation, arbitration, or another form of alternative dispute resolution. The goal of alternative dispute negotiations is to avoid a trial, which can be costly for both parties.

If a settlement is not reached, the case may proceed to trial where both parties present their evidence to the court, including any documents, photographs, or other items of relevance.

After both parties have given their testimony and presented evidence, the jury or judge will determine whether the defendant is responsible for harming the plaintiff. If the court finds in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant will be required to pay some type of compensation to the plaintiff.

Filing an appeal

If the defendant or plaintiff is not satisfied with the lower court’s decision and they can prove an error was made during the civil trial, they may have the right to appeal the lower court’s decision.

Common errors can include errors of fact, errors of fact collecting, and errors of law. For example, if the court made a mistake and admitted evidence that should not have been admitted, if evidence was collected using means which were not constitutional, or the judge gave the jury improper instructions, the defendant or plaintiff may have the right to appeal the decision.

All appeals must be filed within a specified statute of limitations, generally 30 days from the date of the court’s decision.

What will the appeal court do?

The appellate court has several options when they receive an appeal. They may decide any of the following:

  • To uphold the lower court’s ruling.
  • To overturn the ruling and ask for a retrial.
  • To  ask for an argument.

If the decision from the lower court is upheld, then the verdict is final. If the higher court overturned the lower court’s decision, then a new trial will be held. If the court asks for arguments, then your lawyer will be required to answer questions from the appeals board.

Do I need a lawyer to file an appeal?

Talk to a lawyer in your state who is familiar with your state’s laws for more information about the appeal process. Unfortunately, trial lawyers are often hesitant to file appeals, especially if they were not involved with the case from the beginning.

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