How to File a Lawsuit


A lawsuit is a legal action brought in court by one party seeking a remedy from another. Lawsuits are typically about money or rights, and can include actions based on laws, contracts, or property. Most civil lawsuits involve torts – activities that break the law and cause injury to someone else. Common torts include trespassing, negligence, products liability, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Each party in a case files initial papers called “pleadings” to explain their side of the story. If you are suing a business, the pleadings must identify the proper parties and correctly state their legal claims. Identifying the proper defendant can be difficult, especially when businesses have names like XYZ LLC doing business as EZ Auto Repair. Defendants must also be served formally with the complaint and summons, which tells them they are being sued in court.

After a party files their pleadings, the next step is to engage in discovery. Discovery is a lengthy process that begins soon after the case is filed and often doesn’t end until shortly before trial. During discovery, parties ask each other and third parties questions to gather evidence about the case.

Both sides must then file “motions” before the trial. A motion is a request to the judge to rule on some aspect of the case. Some motions dispose of issues without trial, while others are used to resolve procedural issues or to challenge the validity of evidence or arguments. At trial, each party presents their evidence to a jury. The jury then deliberates and reaches a decision or verdict. The winner of the trial is awarded costs and fees (which do not include attorneys’ fees) to cover their out-of-pocket expenses in prosecuting or defending the lawsuit.

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