How to File a Lawsuit

The lawsuit is the legal process by which a plaintiff seeks compensation for injuries and damages caused by another party’s actions. If you are considering pursuing a lawsuit, the first step is to hire an experienced attorney who has handled similar cases in the past. Attorneys are often available on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid when you do – and they can help you recover significantly more than you would on your own.

The next step is to submit various forms and documents to the court, including a complaint. The specifics of what you need to submit will depend on the type of case and the local rules. You will generally also need to pay a filing fee.

Once you’ve filed your civil complaint, the defendant must file an answer to it, admitting or denying each numbered factual allegation in the complaint. To make the process easier for the defendant, use short sentences and only include facts. For example, ‘The defendant was negligent’ is not a fact; ‘the defendant ran a red light and struck your car’ is a fact.

Finally, your complaint should include a request for monetary relief. This can be as simple as a dollar amount, or it can be more detailed, such as a request for compensatory, punitive and/or treble damages if your claim involves a tort such as negligence or defamation.

Once your complaint is drafted, you should serve it on the defendants and/or their attorneys. Depending on the nature of your case, serving it can be done by mail or in person.

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