A lawsuit is a legal action you take to seek restitution for harm or damage that's been done to you. Generally, a lawsuit begins when you file your case in court and ends either with a court judgment or settlement. In fact, most cases are settled out of court, and one of the main reasons for this is the fact that lawsuits can be both time consuming and expensive. Most personal-injury cases involve insurance companies, and unless the insurance company is questioning the issue of fault, an assessor will negotiate a settlement with you, through your attorney. Settlements can be made at any time, sometimes even during the court trial itself. In several states, the parties involved in lawsuits are encouraged to resolve their cases through mediation or arbitration, although out-of-court resolution is not mandatory. If your case goes to trial, you may be represented by an attorney, although you have the right to present your own case before the court. During the course of a trial, both sides can introduce evidence and witnesses, cross-examine witnesses, and present their arguments to the court. In a lawsuit, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, who must demonstrate that the defendant has caused damage or harm. If your court case is successful, damages awarded can include actual expenses, compensation for lost income, lost future income, and compensation for pain and suffering. In some cases, courts can also award punitive damages. For more information about lawsuits, contact an attorney.