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How To Sue

Once you have decided to file a lawsuit, you may need help figuring out how to get started. Filing a lawsuit is not always a clear and straightforward process. Even basic decisions such as where to sue might be more complex than they seem.

In FindLaw's section on How To Sue, you can find information about how to decide whether to file a lawsuit, if you need the counsel of an attorney, how to write demand letters before a lawsuit, and what to expect in a lawsuit as it progresses from beginning to end.

Determining if You Should File a Lawsuit

When someone injures you or damages your property, your first instinct may be to think, "I'm going to sue that person!" However, lawsuits often take up a lot of time, energy, and money. Therefore, it's essential to consider your lawsuit carefully before filing it. A few helpful questions to consider when determining whether or not to file a lawsuit include the following:

  • Do you have a good case?
  • Are you willing to mediate the case or accept a settlement?
  • Will you be able to collect money from the defendant if you win your lawsuit?

Although there are never guarantees that you will win a case, figuring out if you have a good case is essential. You can break down most lawsuits and causes of action into elements. To determine if you have a good case, you must have enough evidence or proof to satisfy each element

For example, suppose you want to file a breach of contract lawsuit against a contractor. In that case, you must consider whether you can satisfy each element of a breach of contract case.

In the United States legal system, most cases settle before a jury trial occurs. The best solution to a problem is often to discuss the issue with the other side. You can also contact a mediator to help resolve the case. Mediation is often a much more low-cost and quicker alternative to a trial. Some judges may require the parties to attempt to mediate or arbitrate the issues before heading to court.

Assuming you have positive answers to the first two questions, you should consider whether the defendant has the funds to satisfy a money judgment in your favor. If the defendant can't pay a monetary judgment, there is no point in going through the time, effort, and money suing them.

Statute of Limitations

You must file your lawsuit within its specified time limit. The time limit, known as the statute of limitations, depends on state laws and the cause of action. The court may only hear the case if you file the lawsuit within its statute of limitations. For this reason, it's important to consult an attorney or look up your state's laws when considering whether to file a lawsuit.

The clock for the statute of limitations of a particular cause of action may start running at different times. Three of the most common times that the clock can start to run are as follows:

  • The date of harm
  • The date of discovery of the harm
  • The date you should have discovered the harm

The date of harm is when the actual injury occurred. For example, the statute of limitations may begin running on the date that a car accident damaged your car. 

The date of discovery can occur when the plaintiff can only ascertain that injuries or damage occurred at a later date. The date you should have discovered the harm is when a reasonable person would have discovered the harm.

You can look up the laws of your state to find out when the statute of limitations begins for the particular harm you have suffered.

Hiring a Litigation Attorney

If you believe someone is responsible for the personal injury, property damage, or monetary loss you have suffered, contact a local litigation attorney to discuss your options. An attorney can provide valuable legal advice as you prepare to file a lawsuit, such as:

  • Determining whether you should file your case in a small claims court or a civil court
  • How to obtain court forms and how to file pleadings at a district or county court
  • Different ways to ensure the service of process, such as hiring a private process server or the sheriff's office to serve the defendant
  • Determining the amount of money you should claim in your case and whether you can recover your filing fees if you prevail in the lawsuit
  • Information about the different methods of alternative dispute resolution available, such as mediation and arbitration
  • Specific advice for your legal claim, information about court rules, and how to prepare for an upcoming court proceeding
  • Whether to file your case in a state district court or federal court

If you have a potential lawsuit or you've received notice of a legal proceeding filed against you, contact a civil litigation attorney today.

Learn About How To Sue Someone

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

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