How to File a Lawsuit


A lawsuit is an action filed with a court that asks for legal or equitable relief. Generally speaking, lawsuits are only appropriate for situations where someone has violated a legal right and caused harm that needs to be remedied. It is also important to note that before a person files a lawsuit they must have the legal capacity to do so (which differs by state).

A person who wishes to sue someone else must start by filing the “complaint.” The complaint describes what the defendant did or failed to do that caused harm to the plaintiff. The complaint also outlines the “relief” the plaintiff is asking the court for — whether that be a declaration that the defendant’s actions were unlawful, an injunction, money damages or any other non-monetary remedy. The final part of the complaint includes a box where the plaintiff names the defendants and their full name and title. Then, if you are suing in your own individual capacity (as opposed to as an organization or group), you must include the name of that group.

After the complaint is filed, the court will issue a “scheduling order” that sets important dates and deadlines. During this time, the parties will exchange evidence and submit other pleadings such as motions. After this, the judge or jury will hear testimony and make a decision. If either party is unhappy with the result, they can appeal the decision to a higher court known as an appellate court.

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