Filing A Complaint

Follow the process of filiing a complaint and understand the terminology you might encounter.

Filing a complaint with the court system is a process that can take a long or short time depending on the complexities of your complaint. The simpler, the easier it will go and the more variables it has the more difficult it will become.

A complaint has four basic parts to it which define the action which will be taken. Initially, a complaint must state that the court does have the jurisdiction necessary to oversee the case. What this means is that the court must be certain that the plaintiff, person filing the complaint, has met the proper residency requirements, for example. Without appropriate jurisdiction, the court does not have the authority to rule in the matter.

The complaint must also list the parties involved in the action being sought. This includes the plaintiff and the defendant, the latter who has the suit being filed against them.

Next, the complaint needs to provide a short summary of each element of the case and the basic facts which can prove the elements specified. For example, if someone is involved in a automobile accident as the result of a stop sign which was obscured by some trees, it needs to be proven that the defendant, such as a city or county, had the duty to be certain the sign was visible to drivers.

Finally, the complaint needs to specify the relief being sought by the plaintiff, such as compensation for medical expenses or lost wages from time needed off work. Some states need verification that the plaintiff has read and agreed to the facts in the complaint prior to its filing.

The defendant has different options once the complaint is received. If the defendant does nothing, than the plaintiff can ask for a default judgment for their lack of opposition. These judgments can be cast aside if the defendant can show just cause for failing to respond to the complaint.

If the defendant chooses to respond by filing an answer, they have either admitted to wrongdoing, denied part of the complaint or are requesting further investigation be pursued.

A counterclaim can be filed by the defendant as well. This is a claim raised by the defendant which is against the plaintiff. A crossclaim would be a claimed raised against a co-party. If the city felt that someone in an accident was unable to see the sign due to a large truck in the way, the city or county could file a counterclaim against one of them.

Motions can also be filed alleging lack of jurisdiction over a person or subject matter, improper venue or insufficiency of process. Also, if a motion is filed alleging failure to state a claim which relief can be granted upon, the defendant is stating that the plaintiff has failed to state a legal necessary element part of the cause of action. Some states will call this a motion for dismissal or demurrer.

If the case is not settled or dismissed by this time, the discovery process and trial proceedings will begin.

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