Suing a person requires you to complete a series of legal steps. The process can be broadly broken down into:
Jurisdiction is the legal term for a court’s authority to decide a case. Think of it as the court’s “reach” or “power.” There are different types of jurisdiction:
- Personal Jurisdiction: Refers to the court’s power over the individuals or entities involved in the lawsuit. If a defendant has significant ties to a state (residency, business operations, or other meaningful contacts), then courts in that state typically have personal jurisdiction over them.
- Subject Matter Jurisdiction: This is about the court’s authority to hear the specific type of case being presented. For instance, bankruptcy cases can only be heard in bankruptcy courts.
- Geographic and Venue Considerations: For an auto accident case due to negligence, it’s customary to file the lawsuit in the county or district where the accident happened. However, if the defendant doesn’t reside there, you may need to file where the defendant lives.
- Diversity Jurisdiction: In cases where parties are from different states, and the claim exceeds $75,000, it might qualify for federal court under diversity jurisdiction. However, just because you can file in federal court doesn’t always mean you should; strategic considerations might make state court more favorable.
Write a well-pleaded complaint to formally start the lawsuit. It provides a narrative of the plaintiff’s side of the story and what they seek in terms of relief. Let’s break it down:
- Factual Allegations: Here, you’d detail the circumstances surrounding the accident. For instance: “On January 1, 2023, at approximately 2:00 pm, at the intersection of Elm Street and 5th Avenue in Springfield, the defendant ran a red light and collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle.”
- Negligence Claim: This part would explain how the defendant’s actions were negligent or careless. For example: “The defendant failed to obey traffic signals, a basic duty all drivers owe to others on the road. This breach of duty directly resulted in the collision.”
- Causation and Injury: Outline how the defendant’s negligence directly caused harm. “As a direct result of the collision, the plaintiff suffered a broken arm, whiplash, and severe back pain.”
- Damages: This is where you’d specify the compensation you’re seeking. “The plaintiff has incurred $10,000 in medical bills, lost $5,000 in wages due to missed work, and has experienced significant pain and suffering.”
Once the complaint is filed, the next step is ensuring the defendant knows about it. This process ensures fairness, giving the defendants an opportunity to defend themselves.
- Service of Process: This is a formal procedure where the defendant receives copies of both the complaint and the summons. The summons is an official court document that notifies the defendant of the lawsuit and provides instructions on how and when to respond.
- Who Can Serve: Typically, service must be carried out by a neutral third party, such as a process server or sheriff’s deputy. In many jurisdictions, the plaintiff or their attorney cannot personally serve the documents.
- Methods of Service: The most common method is personal service, where the documents are handed directly to the defendant. If direct service isn’t possible, other methods, like service by publication or substituted service, might be used, depending on the jurisdiction.
In conclusion, filing a lawsuit involves a series of precise steps, each critical in its own right. It’s important to understand these steps and execute them correctly to ensure a fair and efficient legal process.
Can I Sue a Corporation?
Suing a corporation might initially appear intimidating, but in essence, it involves many of the same legal procedures for suing individuals. However, there are some unique considerations to be aware of when initiating a lawsuit against a corporate entity.
Corporations, like individuals, have legal obligations to uphold. They must operate within legal boundaries, maintain their contractual obligations, and ensure that their products and services are safe for consumers. If a corporation fails in any of these areas, it can be held legally accountable. Common reasons for individuals to sue corporations include issues like breach of contract, personal injury resulting from a faulty product, or instances of unfair business practices.
A challenge you might face early on is identifying the correct corporate entity to target. Large corporations might have several subsidiaries or associated entities. It’s vital to pinpoint the specific division or company responsible for the breach or harm. For example, if a defective product is an issue, the lawsuit should be aimed at the company that manufactured the product, not necessarily its parent company or an unrelated subsidiary.
Every corporation is required by law to designate a registered agent. This is a person or entity officially recognized to receive legal documents on behalf of the corporation. To start the lawsuit, the complaint and summons should be served to this registered agent.
Properly serving these documents ensures that the corporation is officially made aware of the lawsuit. Information about a corporation’s registered agent is often accessible through the state’s Secretary of State’s office or a similar department.
Remember that corporations often have a strong legal team and substantial financial backing. This means they can use an array of strategies to defend against lawsuits, such as seeking to dismiss the case or challenging the lawsuit’s foundation. Corporations also benefit from limited liability protections.
This typically means you can only sue the corporation as an entity, not its individual shareholders or employees. Any claims are usually settled using the corporation’s assets and insurance rather than the personal assets of its owners.
Lastly, when pursuing legal action against a corporation, the importance of evidence cannot be overstated. Ensure you have evidence to support your claim, be it in the form of contracts, purchase receipts, medical records, or correspondence with the company.
Given the resources at a corporation’s disposal, having a strong evidence-backed position is crucial, whether you’re negotiating a settlement or heading to trial. Due to the intricacies associated with suing corporations, consulting with an experienced attorney is often a wise decision.
Can I Sue a Government?
Suing a government entity (whether local, state, or federal) is possible, but it comes with challenges. Many governments have “sovereign immunity,” which protects them from certain lawsuits. However, most have also enacted laws (like the Tort Claims Act) that allow them to be sued under specific circumstances. Before suing, you often have to file a notice of claim, alerting the government to the impending lawsuit.
How Much Does It Cost to Sue Someone?
The cost to sue someone varies depending on several factors:
- Court fees: These are mandatory fees for filing a lawsuit and other related documents.
- Attorney’s fees: Depending on your arrangement, you might pay an attorney by the hour or through a contingency fee (a percentage of your winnings).
- Miscellaneous expenses: These could include fees for expert witnesses, depositions, and other case-related costs.
What Happens After You Sue Someone?
Once you’ve filed the lawsuit:
- Response: The defendant has a specified amount of time (often 20-30 days) to respond, either by answering the complaint, filing a motion to dismiss, or other legal maneuvers.
- Discovery: Both parties gather evidence related to the case.
- Negotiations: Often, parties will attempt to reach a settlement to avoid a trial.
- Trial: If no settlement is reached, the case proceeds to trial, where a judge or jury decides the outcome.
- Judgment and Collection: If you win, you receive a judgment and can proceed with collecting the awarded amount.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Sue Someone?
While it’s possible to sue someone on your own (pro se), consulting or hiring an attorney is highly advisable, especially for complex cases like auto accidents rooted in negligence. An attorney can guide you through the legal process, ensure your rights are protected, and enhance your chances of a favorable outcome.
If you’re considering suing someone and need legal advice or representation, don’t go it alone. Contact a LegalMatch lawyer today to find the right attorney for your needs. Your case deserves the best possible representation.