A lawsuit is a legal action that involves a person (plaintiff) seeking money damages from someone who has harmed him in violation of the law. It is a common way to solve disputes that cannot be resolved through other means, such as mediation.
The Steps in a Lawsuit
The first thing you must do to start a lawsuit is file a complaint with the court. The complaint is a document that describes who you are, who the defendant is, what happened (factual allegations), what laws give the court the power to rule in your favor (legal claims), and what you want the court to do (relief).
It also includes a caption box where you put the full names of all the plaintiffs and the full names and titles of all the defendants. Inside the caption box, you should write that you are suing them in their “official capacity” if you are requesting injunctive relief and in their “individual capacity” if you are requesting money damages.
Depending on the facts and legal claims, you may seek compensatory damages or punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief. You can get a copy of the federal rules and the state rules for your jurisdiction from the clerk of the court in which you are filing your suit.
The court usually hears a trial, in which the plaintiff and defendant present evidence to each other. Then the parties give closing arguments and the judge or jury decides. Sometimes a party can ask for a new trial or appeal the decision to an appellate court.