In the United States, there are two types of laws that are meant to punish a person’s wrongdoing or compensate victims of another person’s bad acts. The two types of laws are civil law and criminal law. Civil law is the set of laws that address behaviors, actions, or inactions of individuals that cause some sort of injury to occur to another individual.
Legal penalties for any parties that are found liable for civil violations are generally monetary in nature, but can also include court-ordered remedies, such as injunctions or restraining orders.
It is important to note that in order to not have a civil lawsuit dismissed, the plaintiff (i.e. the person that was allegedly injured or harmed) must initiate their civil lawsuit within a specific time frame. The time frame in which a civil lawsuit must be initiated or it will be subject to dismissal is known as the statute of limitations. Each state has its own rules regarding statute of limitations for civil lawsuits. Further, different types of civil claims will have different statutes of limitations.
As such, if an individual is planning on filing a civil lawsuit against a party that has allegedly caused them injury, it is important that they first check the laws in the state in which they live. The best policy if you need to file a lawsuit is to initiate the claim as soon as possible.
In general, the most common statute of limitations for most civil lawsuits is two years. This means that a party that has allegedly suffered some type of injury must bring their civil lawsuit within two years from the time in which they suffered the injury, or from the time in which the injury manifested itself. Importantly, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations, but the exceptions will only apply in certain circumstances, such as fraud, duress, or the injured person being in a coma.
Should I Try to Settle My Case First and Prepare a Demand Letter?
As mentioned above, a person that has been injured by another person has the legal right to initiate a civil lawsuit against the party that allegedly harmed them. In order to do so, the plaintiff must file the lawsuit with either their local court, the court in the jurisdiction in which they were injured, or the court in which the defendant is located.
After initiating the civil lawsuit, the plaintiff will then serve a copy of the lawsuit onto the defendant. Next, the defendant will have a certain period of time to respond to the civil lawsuit that was initiated by the plaintiff. The defendant may also file a countersuit to the plaintiff’s lawsuit and allege their own damages, if available. If the defendant does not respond to the lawsuit within the appropriate time, then the plaintiff may default the defendant.
However, if the civil lawsuit does not end in a default judgment, then the civil case will continue. At this point in the civil process, the plaintiff and defendant will exchange discovery. Discovery is the civil process by which both parties will seek and provide information that is relevant to the lawsuit at hand. During the discovery process, the plaintiff may also make a demand to the defendant as an attempt to settle the case without the necessity of going to trial.
In a demand letter, the plaintiff will typically outline their legal theories, as well as provide evidence regarding the amount of economic harm that they suffered in relation to the defendant’s actions. In the case of a personal injury automobile case, the plaintiff will typically send the demand letter to a defendant’s insurance company. Then the defendant’s insurance company will review the demand letter and choose whether or not they should settle it within the insurance policy limits, or proceed to fight the claim at a trial.
Typically, most civil lawsuits will end in settlement. In fact, most statistics state that only two percent of civil lawsuits actually proceed to the civil trial phase of the civil process. As such, forming a solid demand letter is an essential process to civil lawsuits.
If the defendant, or their insurance provider, fails to settle a case, or have the case dismissed, then they risk having to payout more money during the trial process. This is because oftentimes a demand letter will not include extra attorney and case fees associated with taking a case to trial.
Where and How Do I File My Lawsuit?
As mentioned above, if a plaintiff initiates a civil lawsuit, they will need to file their lawsuit in the appropriate jurisdiction. This means that the plaintiff must understand the proper venue and jurisdiction for their lawsuit. It is important to note that civil lawsuits may either be initiated in state or federal court, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case itself.
Once the plaintiff determines the appropriate jurisdiction and venue for their civil lawsuit, they will then need to form a petition or complaint and file it with the appropriate court. At that time that plaintiff will also need to pay the appropriate court fees to the court in which they filed their lawsuit. Then, the plaintiff will need to properly serve the lawsuit upon the defendant as mentioned above.
If a plaintiff has any questions regarding jurisdiction, venue, or how to properly initiate a civil lawsuit, it may be in their best interests to hire a lawyer. An experienced civil lawyer will be able to help the plaintiff determine the appropriate jurisdiction and venue, as well as what the appropriate pleading is given the specific facts and circumstances of the case. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to help the plaintiff properly serve the defendant and negotiate pre-trial settlement options on the plaintiff’s behalf.
What Else Should I Consider?
As far as other considerations when filing a civil lawsuit, it is important to also consider other factors that may implicate the plaintiff’s civil lawsuit. For example, if there are any ongoing criminal lawsuits against the defendant, the plaintiff may have any civil settings related to the criminal lawsuit put on hold until the criminal aspects of the case are resolved.
For instance, if the defendant committed assault and battery on the plaintiff, and the state brought criminal charges against the defendant, the plaintiff will typically have to wait until the criminal process is completed before they will be able to finish the civil process. In the case of an assault and battery, the plaintiff may bring a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant for the injuries they suffered as a result of the assault and battery.
The plaintiff may even introduce a copy of the police report and other evidence that may have surfaced during the criminal process as evidence of the defendant’s civil liability for their injuries.
Where Can I Find the Right Lawyer?
As can be seen, the procedural process for filing a civil lawsuit may often become complicated. As such, if you have been injured as a result of another party’s actions or inactions, then it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced lawyer.
An experienced lawyer will be able to help guide you as to initiating a civil lawsuit, properly serving any parties that may be liable for your injuries, and preparing and filing your civil suit in the appropriate court. Finally, an experienced attorney will be able to help you negotiate any possible settlements, and represent you in court, as needed.