You can sue without a lawyer, but in most cases, and depending on the type of case, it may be more work than you anticipated. In some states, you cannot hire a lawyer to represent you in small claims court. However, in most other situations, you can and should be represented by a lawyer.
When you sue someone, you first file a complaint, then serve it on the other party. The complaint sets forth a claim you have against the person you are suing. For example, you could be suing for a breach of contract, negligence, or fraud.
It is important to remember that the complaint alleging these claims must be filed within a certain period of time after the claimed wrong occurred. This is also known as the statute of limitations. Different claims are subject to different statutes of limitation. If the complaint is not filed within the required timeframe, your claims may be barred and you will not be able to recover against the other person.
Although it is possible for you to initiate and proceed with a lawsuit on your own, a lawyer is trained to navigate the complexities of litigation. Further, if you do not draft the complaint properly, you run the risk of having your case dismissed.
Generally, your next step is to proceed to the discovery stage. At this point, you would seek discovery of evidence, such as documents or deposition testimony, from the other party. The other party may request that you turn over evidence or respond to certain discovery requests. Failure to timely respond or provide sufficient responses may result in sanctions against you, such as monetary sanctions, or even dismissal of your case.
There are many rules governing discovery, and tackling them on your own may not be in your best interest. A lawyer could determine what type of evidence to seek, as well as protect your interests in terms of discovery requests by the other party. For example, if you have certain private information that you are not required to provide to the other party, a lawyer can make sure you are not taken advantage of by providing evidence that the other side is not entitled to.
When you complete the discovery stage, the last step is the trial. This may include selecting a jury or having only the judge hear your case. You would have to know what type of evidence may be presented at trial, what type of questions to ask the witnesses, what objections to make against the other party, and general court procedures. For example, juries are not always required in civil cases, and failure to follow procedures may lead you to lose your right to have your case heard by a jury. A lawyer is vital to the most important part of your lawsuit – the presentation of evidence and argument to the judge or jury deciding your case.
If you end up settling your case, it is beneficial to have a lawyer handle your settlement negotiations. Again, you do not want to be taken advantage of by the other side. A lawyer can help you understand what rights you may be giving up and what benefits you may be gaining from a settlement.
If you win your case, collecting upon the judgment might be problematic. There are procedures in place that you must follow to receive your money. If the losing party refuses to pay, the winning party has to obtain an order from the court to record a lien on the losing party’s property or garnish wages. Post-judgment collection can be complicated and stressful, so it is best to have a lawyer handle it.
Are you concerned about filing and proceeding with a lawsuit on your own? business lawyer who may be better suited to handle your case.