Although courts exist to help people resolve their problems, they do not always get things right the first time. A trial court may reach the wrong outcome in certain cases or make an incorrect ruling at certain points during a trial. The trial court’s decision, however, does not have to be the ultimate outcome of a dispute. The legal system provides a civil appeals process that allows a party to request that a court or panel of judges evaluate the dispute a second time if the party believes the trial court made a legitimate error in the way it reached its decision.
There are several typical ways in which a trial court makes a mistake that warrants an appeal. If the court uses misleading or unclear jury instructions, allows inadmissible evidence, misapplies the law, or simply reaches a conclusion that is patently unfair, an appeal may be appropriate. Filing an appeal, however, is a different process than filing an initial lawsuit. An appeal requires an attorney who is experienced not only in the law, but in appellate advocacy.
Before filing an appeal, you and your lawyer will discuss your case and the specific errors that the court made. Next, you will file a notice of appeal. An appellate brief usually accompanies a notice of appeal and serves as the basis of your appeal claim. This very important document outlines your position and the errors that were made at trial. Your case may then be reopened, or a new trial may occur. In some situations, simply filing an appeal may reopen settlement talks with the opposing party. Settlement discussions may lead to a more favorable outcome than the ruling the court issued, or, if the opposing party is unwilling to reach an agreement, the dispute may continue and eventually move on to additional hearings.
The appeals process is a valuable tool that can assist you in reaching a fair outcome in your civil case. There may be a limited time, however, in which you can file your notice of appeal, so it is important not to waste time if you believe the court has made an incorrect ruling. Because appeals are different than typical trials, it is also important to have an experienced appellate attorney on your side. By working with you to understand your case and the errors that the court made, your appellate attorney will help you use the legal system to fix the mistakes that were made and reach the outcome that you deserve.