Up next in How to Understand Legal Issues (19 videos)
Stay on the right side of the law, and learn how to navigate the legal system, with these videos.
You Will Need
- A claim that you have been harmed
- A defendant
- Evidence and/or witnesses to support your claim
- A lawyer
- Filing and court feeds
Decide if you have a good case
Determine whether you have a case. You may be upset, but can you prove before a judge or jury that you suffered a serious injury and that the defendant was responsible? If you cannot, then you shouldn't file a lawsuit.
Find out if you can collect if you win
Find out whether the party you want to sue has money, income, or property. If they don't, it will be difficult -- if not impossible -- to collect any money you may be awarded.
Estimate your claim
Estimate the size of your claim. If it is larger than the amount allowed in small claims court, find a lawyer to handle your case. Heed the old saying, "A person who acts as their own attorney has a fool for a client."
Name the defendant
Find out and provide the full name of your defendant. If you're suing an individual or individuals, it should be obvious. If you're suing a business, you'll want to name the corporation or parent corporation.
File the complaint
File your complaint that describes your claim against the defendant. Steps vary depending on your jurisdiction, but usually you'll have to pay a filing fee, complete some forms, and prepare a summons, which notifies the defendant of your claim.
Move to discovery phase
Once your defendant responds to your complaint, move to the pretrial discovery phase of the suit, when both the prosecution and the defense share evidence and interview witnesses.
Attend court and proceed to trial
Attend court on the date set by the judge, and proceed to trial, if necessary. If you go to trial, you'll need to present evidence or witnesses to prove your case.