How to File a Lawsuit

A lawsuit is a legal proceeding in which one party (the plaintiff) seeks to enforce, redress, or protect their rights against another party (the defendant). Whether you are considering filing a suit or already have a case filed in court, it’s important to know both what to expect and how to prepare the right way. This article explains the basics of civil litigation—what to file, where to file, and when to file it. It also helps you understand and evaluate potential defenses that your adversary may raise.

Before a lawsuit even gets to the trial phases, there’s a lot that needs to be done, such as investigating the incident, checking that your case’s claims are valid, and drafting and filing paperwork. Once your complaint is filed, it must be served on the defendant in accordance with local rules. This is typically accomplished by hiring a professional process server. The defendant must then submit a response, usually countering your allegations or asking that the case be dismissed for lack of legal cause.

Depending on the facts and legal claims, you must also state what type of relief you are seeking. This could be compensatory damages, punitive damages, treble damages, or injunctive relief. You must cite relevant statutes and cases to support your request. Finally, you must include supporting documents, such as police reports, medical records, and the defendant’s product manuals and press releases, if applicable. Some states allow you to incorporate these papers by reference, while others let you attach them to the complaint.

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