How to File a Lawsuit


A lawsuit is a civil legal action that someone (called the plaintiff) brings against one or more people or businesses (called the defendant or defendants) in a court of law. The purpose of a lawsuit is to get something from the other party, such as money or a change in behavior. Most lawsuits are based on torts, but some are criminal.

To start a lawsuit, the plaintiff files a summons and complaint with the court. The complaint outlines the plaintiff’s version of events and how the defendant’s actions caused harm. The plaintiff asks for a remedy, such as monetary compensation or an injunction. The complaint also sets out the defendant’s rights and deadlines to respond. The summons and complaint together are called “pleadings.”

Before you write a complaint, make sure you understand the statute of limitations for your area. Also, review Chapter Four about how much to request in damages if you are suing for money. You may want to include exhibits, but they are not required in all cases. If you do include exhibits, be sure to follow the rules for referring to them in the complaint.

You should also check local, state, and federal laws for specific requirements about filing a complaint. Based on the facts and the law, you should be able to identify the legal claims in your complaint and the facts that support them. This includes performing research to find the courts with subject matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, and venue over your case.

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