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How to File Civil Lawsuits Without Stress

Updated on November 29, 2014

How to File a Lawsuit

Filing civil lawsuits can be a complicated process. One must understand this before deciding that it is the best recourse when an apparent injustice has been committed. An attorney will assist in the whole process but it is prudent to understand what you will be faced with.

Understanding the process of filing a lawsuit will help you do the preparatory work before you hire an attorney. There are documents and statements that will be very important if you are to win the case. Adequate preparation is the key to success in legal battles.

1. Plaintiff files Complaint and Summons

For a lawsuit process to commence, the plaintiff starts by filing a complaint. All the facts must be accurately stated in the complaint. This includes a summary of all the events that allegedly occurred and the wrongs committed by the defendant. A summary of all the reliefs one wishes to be granted by the court must be listed in the complaint. The most common type of relief plaintiffs pray for from the court is monetary compensation.

The complaints are lodged with the Clerk of the Court in the same area where the alleged infringements took place. The filing can be also be done in a court near the residential or business area of the defendant.

The defendant must be served with the complaint early enough to give him enough time to prepare an answer and lodge it with the same court where the complaint was filed.

2. Defendant files an Answer to the Complaint

After receiving the complaint, the defendant will the file an answer and present it to the same court where the complaint was lodged. In the answer, the defendant will address all the issues raised by the plaintiff in the complaint. The defendant will show cause as to why the plaintiff's complaints do not merit a court hearing. Issues of law such as the statutes of limitation can be stated in the reply.

Counter-claims: The defendant can at this point lodge a counter-claim and seek damages for any wrong-doing he may claim the plaintiff has committed. These must be filed in the same court where the complaints were initially lodged and must obey any time limitations set out in the summons.

Delay in the answering the complaint in the set out by the complaint can work against the defendant because the court can determine the case in the plaintiff's favor. It is in the defendant's best interests to hire an attorney early enough so as not to be negatively affected by time limitations.

3. Discovery

The attorneys for both parties can lodge any requests and make counter-claims to each other's allegation.

Interrogatories: These are question and answer sessions between the attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant.

Production: The attorneys from either side will usually ask for documents at the discovery stage.

Admission: The opposing sides will ask each other to admit or deny certain allegations that they make against each other.

All parties must respond to requests within the given time and may compel each other through a motion to comply which is made to the court. Any party may be ordered to comply by the court after the motion is filed and is successful.

4. Any and All Motions

During this stage, several motions may be filed by the litigants:

i) Entry of Default : If the defendant does not file an answer within the stipulated time frame, the plaintiff may request for a default judgment. In this case, the court grants the plaintiff's requests and any damages sought. Should the defendant fail to comply with the ruling of the judge, he will be held in contempt of court.

ii) Motion to Dismiss: When either party for some reason feel that the case should not proceed, they may file a motion to dismiss. This motion can be filed and any stage of the proceedings and is left to the determination of the judge who weighs the merits of the case in order to reach a decision.

iii) Motion to Compel: If either party fails to comply with request may during discovery, a motion may be filed to compel them to comply. The party lodging the motion must clearly indicate all the reasons for such a motion. A court order will be issued by the judge if he feels that the motion has merit.

iv) Summary Judgement: As the case proceeds, either party may feel that sufficient information has been produced for the judge to make a ruling without letting the case proceed any further. If the judge dismisses the motion, the case will proceed to full trial.

Granting of a Motion for Summary Judgement:

If the motion is granted, the party against whom a judgement has been made must comply, failure to which the order will be enforced by the other party. An Order of Notice is entered by the clerk of the court after a Petition of Contempt has been filed. A Writ of Garnishment is ordered by the judge as a way of recovering the award to the plaintiff from the defendant's sources of income.


The court may order for a last chance for the parties in the case to try to reach an amicable solution. This is an effort to reduce litigation costs for both parties and also free up the court's time.

Settlement: If a settlement is reached the case ends under the terms agreed upon. If no settlement is reached between the parties, the case proceeds to full trial.


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