If your matter involves damages that are less than $25,000, the lawsuit may be filed in the local General District Court (“GDC”), otherwise it will be in Circuit Court (“CC”).
A GDC case is faster than CC. It begins by filing a form and paying a small fee. The trial will be before a judge (no juries) and there are limited procedures for exchanging documents and gathering information. A trial is usually within 2-3 months of filing. The costs and fees with trying a case in GDC are usually a lot less than CC. At the end of the case, if either party is unhappy with the result, they can appeal to the CC and have another trial (what is referred to as de novo, which just means it will be a new case without reference to what happened in GDC).
A CC matter starts with a drafted lawsuit. In Tidewater, these cases are scheduled within a year of filing. The actual trial can be delayed for various reasons, however. You have the right to a jury for this level of court, which we always request. There are more methods for obtaining information (what we call discovery) and also more procedures which need to be followed (scheduling orders, formal motions before the court, jury instructions, etc…). This level of Court is much more complex, but it is also the place where the more serious cases are heard.