How to File a Lawsuit


A lawsuit is a civil legal action brought before a judge in order to resolve a dispute or claim. The court decides the rights and claims of the parties to the suit, or issues a judgment. Judges are government officials with the power to decide lawsuits. Judges at the highest level are called justices, while judges in lower courts are called magistrates or judges.

The most important document in a lawsuit is the complaint. The complaint explains who you are (plaintiff), who or what you are suing (defendant), what happened (factual allegations), and what laws give the court the power to rule in your favor (legal claims). A poorly written complaint can get your suit dismissed at the outset. Chapter Seven has some writing and research tips that can help you draft a more effective complaint.

Throughout the process of litigation, the court relies on precedent. A precedent is a previous court decision with facts and law similar to the case at hand. It is usually binding on the court in which it was decided, but can be overruled or ignored by the court if the party in the later case can show that the earlier case was wrongly decided or differed from the current case in some significant way.

When preparing to file a lawsuit, you must make sure that you have exhausted all available internal grievance mechanisms. You must also find out whether the statute of limitations is tolled for exhaustion, so that you have enough time to bring your suit before it expires.

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