The Process of Suing

A lawsuit is a legal proceeding by one party (called the plaintiff) against another party (called the defendant). The purpose of a lawsuit is to receive money or non-monetary equitable relief from a court.


The process of suing involves many steps, including the filing of a complaint and summons, discovery, and trial. Understanding how these steps work can help you know when and how to sue.


A complaint is the first step in a civil lawsuit. It identifies the damages or injury that the plaintiff has suffered and gives details about how the defendant acted to cause them. It also shows that the court has jurisdiction and asks the court to order relief.

A plaintiff’s attorney will file a complaint with the court. Typically, it will contain a case caption (which states the court in which the case originated), the names of the parties and a statement of facts. It will also include information about the amount of damages the plaintiff is seeking in a civil suit, such as money or an equitable remedy (a non-monetary remedy like a donation to a sanctuary for animals).

The complaint may be amended if new facts or evidence are discovered before the lawsuit is filed. It is often necessary to submit a supplemental complaint when a change in the law occurs that could affect the outcome of the case.

After the complaint is filed, a summons is issued. This summons will inform the defendant that they have been served with a complaint and that they have a limited amount of time to answer it. The defendant has to respond to the summons and complaint before the lawsuit can proceed.

Once the complaint and summons have been served, both sides must begin collecting and analyzing evidence. They will then present their cases at trial.

In the trial process, a judge or jury will decide who is liable for the damages or injuries the plaintiff has suffered. After the judge or jury makes a decision, either party can appeal the decision to an appellate court.

If the plaintiff wins, the judgment awarded by the court will be paid out to the plaintiff. If the defendant wins, they will be ordered to pay the plaintiff money or a non-monetary remedy.

A motion to dismiss is filed by the defendant arguing that the lawsuit cannot be allowed to proceed because of something in the complaint. It is important to review a motion to dismiss with your attorney before filing it yourself so that you understand the potential legal issues.


A summons is a document issued by the court to notify someone of a legal action against them. It can be used in many different situations, including requiring people to come to court or give evidence to the plaintiff.

It is important to understand the summons process before a lawsuit starts. It is a powerful tool, and a failure to respond within the time limit can result in losing the case. This is why it is important to take this matter seriously and to file an answer as soon as possible.

The first step in the summons process is to serve the papers on the defendant, if they are not already aware of the lawsuit. This is done by handing them the documents or using a process server, depending on the rules of the state. It is also important to make sure the documents are served correctly, so that they can be easily identified in court.

After the papers are served, they must be filed with the clerk’s office in the county where the suit is being tried. The clerk’s office will need to know how the documents were served, which can include information about the person who was served with them.

Once the papers are filed, a judge will then order the parties to appear in court on specific dates and times. The court will tell the parties if they have to come into the courtroom to answer questions, and how much time they have to prepare for their appearances.

If the defendant fails to appear, a default will be entered against them. They will be subject to fines, jail time or being held in contempt of court.

A default is a very serious issue, and should never be ignored. This is because it means the person is being held accountable for the outcome of the case, even if they did not participate in it. This can be very damaging to their reputation and can affect their ability to earn money in the future.

The summons will also tell the defendant if they are required to attend jury duty or to be present at a deposition. If they are, they should be prepared to go in and provide any relevant information they have.


Discovery is the process of obtaining information that may be relevant to your case. This information is collected through written interrogatories, depositions and requests for production of documents. The information that is gathered during the discovery process may be used to help your attorney prepare for trial.

Discovery can be a very confusing and frustrating process. It often involves exposing details of your personal life that you never thought were relevant to your lawsuit. However, this is a necessary step for getting the compensation and accountability you deserve.

You should make sure you know the rules before you begin the discovery process. If you aren’t familiar with the laws and procedures, it’s a good idea to consult an attorney.

The basic rule for this process is that you can ask for any information that relates to the lawsuit, as long as it isn’t privileged. This means that you can examine virtually anything that is connected to the case, no matter how minor or unimportant.

However, this latitude can lead to abuse. Some lawyers may try to pry into topics that have nothing to do with the case, or even things that are private and confidential, so that they can embarrass the other party.

These kinds of requests are called “discovery.” The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure give parties a lot of leeway in what can be compelled for discovery.

For example, they can compel witnesses to answer questions under oath and ask them to provide evidence. They can also compel a party to produce documents and real property that are pertinent to the case.

If the other side fails to respond within a certain amount of time, the court will decide whether to order the party to comply with their discovery request. Usually, a party who fails to cooperate with a discovery request is subject to some form of sanctions. These can include an instruction for a negative inference at trial or even the dismissal of a claim or counterclaim.

While the discovery process is a complicated and sometimes embarrassing part of a legal dispute, it can be helpful to understand the rules before you file your lawsuit. This way, you can be prepared for what may happen during your case and protect your rights as a plaintiff.


The process of suing involves distinct stages: filing the complaint, discovery and trial. These steps are intended to eliminate surprises, clarify what the case is about, and make the parties decide if they should settle or drop frivolous claims and defenses.

Typically, a lawsuit begins with the plaintiff filing a complaint and delivering a copy to the defendant. The complaint describes what the defendant did (or failed to do) that caused harm to the plaintiff and the legal basis for holding the defendant responsible. It may include the plaintiff’s claim for money to compensate them or non-monetary “equitable relief.”

At the end of the trial, a judge or jury will announce its decision. If a party disagrees with this verdict, they can appeal to an appellate court. The appellate court will review the record of the lower trial and look for errors. The appellate court may reverse the lower judge’s or jury’s decision, remand the case for a new trial, or order a different outcome.

In some cases, the parties resolve their issues through resolutions like mediation or negotiations. Other times, they settle by filing a motion to terminate the lawsuit prematurely before it reaches the court. This can occur if the plaintiff’s case is unwinnable, or if the plaintiff’s lawyer believes that the plaintiff’s case is unlikely to succeed in a trial.

Before a trial starts, both sides file briefs that outline their arguments and any evidence they plan to present. The attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant then present their case to a judge or jury. They can cross-examine witnesses, re-direct examinations and present closing statements.

The length of a lawsuit can vary, depending on the issues involved and the amount of discovery required to prepare for the trial. In general, a lawsuit should be prepared for trial within about 18 months of the date of filing.

The trial begins with a judge or jury selecting potential jurors and deciding which ones are appropriate for the case. During this phase, each side will interview potential jurors through a process known as “voir dire.” Some jurors are eliminated in this phase.