A pretrial discovery can be defined as "the formal process of exchanging information between the parties about the witnesses and evidence they’ll present at trial" and allows for the evidence of the trial to be presented to the parties before the initial trial begins. The early stages of the lawsuit may involve initial disclosures of evidence by each party and discovery, which is the structured exchange of evidence and statements between the parties. Discovery is meant to eliminate surprises, clarify what the lawsuit is about, and also to make the parties decide if they should settle or drop frivolous claims and/or defenses. At this point the parties may also engage in pretrial motions to exclude or include particular legal or factual issues before trial.
A lawsuit may involve dispute resolution of private law issues between individuals, business entities or non-profit organizations. A lawsuit may also enable the state to be treated as if it were a private party in a civil case, as plaintiff, or defendant regarding an injury, or may provide the state with a civil cause of action to enforce certain laws.