How to File a Lawsuit


A lawsuit is the resolution of disputes involving issues of private law between individuals or business entities. It also involves matters of public law in which the state is treated as a private party and sued to enforce laws, or to be awarded monetary damages for injuries caused by agents of the state. Most lawsuits are settled outside of court. Some are fully tried to a judge or jury’s verdict, but 98 percent of civil claims never get that far.

To sue someone, you must have standing (legal grounds), and a legal claim. You must prove your claims by a “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning you believe it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the wrongdoing, and you suffered a result.

Getting the facts together is often difficult, and you may need to hire experts to help. You need to cite supportive documents, such as police reports, medical records and the defendant’s product manuals or press releases. Some states allow you to include these papers in the complaint by reference, while others require that you attach them to the document identifying them as exhibits.

A judge or jury will decide whether the defendant acted wrongfully and how much you are owed in compensation. The judge or jury will award a sum of money to cover your expenses and other losses. The judge or jury may also award punitive damages if the defendant’s actions are especially outrageous or malicious.

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