How to File a Lawsuit


A lawsuit is when a person, on their own or with an attorney, uses the civil justice system to enforce their rights. The process is very complicated and the outcome depends on many things, including whether the person has a good case (meaning that there are legal grounds to sue) and how well they make their case.

The first step is to submit papers to the court that say what you are suing for and why. The specific forms that you need to file depend on the type of suit and your court’s rules. Generally, you will need to include a summons and a complaint. The court usually requires that the defendant formally be “served” with these papers, meaning that they get a copy of them in person.

After you have filed your papers, you will want to start gathering evidence. This will depend on the type of suit, but may include medical records and expert testimony. You may want to put some of this in what is called an “exhibit,” which is attached to the top of your complaint. If you use exhibits, make sure you number them and cite to them in your complaint.

After discovery, the lawyers for each side will prepare to try the case. The judge or jury will hear the evidence and decide whether the defendant is legally liable for your damages. They will also decide what the plaintiff should receive if they win — either monetary compensation or non-monetary equitable relief such as making things right.

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