Once you decide to sue someone in court, there are several issues you need to consider to prepare yourself for the case. Read this section carefully to make sure you are starting your case properly. As the person who is filing the civil lawsuit, you are the plaintiff. There can be one or more plaintiffs. The plaintiffs can be all individual people, all companies, or a combination of both.
Remember, the information here is very basic. It is a good idea to talk to a lawyer to make sure you have a good case, and you follow the proper steps and procedures for filing your lawsuit. Click for help finding a lawyer.
Before you file a civil case, you must figure out:
These are hard issues to decide, even if at first glance they seem easy. For example, let’s say you get into a car accident. First, you have to figure out if the person who was driving the car is also the owner of the car. If not, you have to make sure you sue both the driver and the owner. Second, was the accident in part your fault? You also need to know what city and county the car accident happened in. And you only have a certain amount of time to sue, called the “statute of limitations.” If you do not file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations, your case can be dismissed, even if the other person was clearly at fault.
And what if the car that hit you is a government vehicle, like a police car? In that case, you might have to sue the city or county where the police department is located. When you sue a government entity, the law generally requires you to first file a Government Tort Claim with the government entity, usually within 6 months from the date of the accident or incident causing injury. Most government entities have forms for this purpose. This requirement is to give the government entity notice of what happened and allow them to review your case and resolve it outside of court. If you do not file the Government Tort Claim with the government entity within the required time period, you may not be able to recover any money from that entity. Once you file your government claim, the government entity will accept your claim, deny your claim, or not respond. If the government entity denies your claim or does not respond within 45 days, you can then sue in court, but there is usually a shorter statute of limitations to file your lawsuit from the date the claim is denied (or the 45 days go by), often only 6 months!
IMPORTANT: Read Preparing for Court to find out how to figure out these issues and why they are so important. If you make mistakes with these first few steps before you even file your case, you may end up losing based on a procedural issue and never get your day in court.
Once you have answered all the preliminary questions about whom to sue, where to file your lawsuit, and how much to sue for, you are ready to file your case. Civil cases vary a lot depending on what the lawsuit is about, but there are some general steps you will have to follow no matter what you are suing about.