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Legal How-To: Preparing to Sue Someone

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on February 18, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

What steps do you need to take when you're preparing to sue someone?

Initiating a lawsuit is a big step, as litigation can be a lengthy and costly process for everyone involved. So before you file a lawsuit, you may want to try to exhaust all other options to settle your claims.

If you do decide to pursue legal action, here are some general tips on how to prepare to sue someone:

1. Determine Whether Your Case Is Viable.

The first thing to consider is if you have a viable case. While this may seem obvious, your case may get thrown out if you don't have a genuine legal claim against a party whom you can identify. This means that you must have a good argument that meets all the elements of your claim.

For example, if you're suing for a breach of contract, you must prove that a valid contract existed, that the other party was supposed to perform under the contract but failed to do so, and that the breach resulted in damages.

Building a case that satisfies all the elements of a legal claim can be difficult, so it's best consult an attorney that specializes in the type of law your lawsuit falls under.

2. Determine Where to File Your Lawsuit.

The court where you file your lawsuit is important because the court must have jurisdiction or power to hear your case. For instance, in a personal injury case, you generally want to file a lawsuit in either the county where the accident happened, where the person who injured you lives, or the county you live in. Wherever the location, it must be directly relevant to your lawsuit.

3. Make Sure the Statute of Limitations Hasn't Run Out.

Another thing to consider when preparing to sue someone is whether the statute of limitations has run out. The statute of limitations is the period of time in which you're allowed to sue someone. If the time period runs out, then you may be barred from suing.

For each type of legal claim, the statute of limitations is different, and they vary by state. However, the clock usually starts running when you discover that you've been injured or that you're legal rights have been infringed upon.

4. Consider the Evidence.

When preparing to sue someone, you should start getting together all the proof you have to support your case. For example, if you're filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, gather all of your medical records, insurance information, hospital bills, and any other documents relating to your claim. Keep all the documents in one safe place, because you'll likely need to access them frequently during your lawsuit.

Need More Help?

These are just a few tips on how to prepare to sue someone. Depending on the specific facts of your case, you may have more questions or need some professional guidance. An experienced litigation attorney in your area can help you smooth out all the details or visit FindLaw's Litigation and Appeals section to learn more.

Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo.

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