Survive an auto accident? Injured while at work? Suspicious of child care abuse or elder care neglect? There are so many factors to consider when weighing your legal options.


The media depicts a scant representation of the processes involved with getting your case started, and more often than not, these processes are not “one size fits all”.

So after all things have been considered, where should you begin? Should you call the first law firm you see listed? Should you ask a friend or family member for advice before doing anything else? Should you ignore the problem and allow it to resolve itself? There are a few things about the process you can learn before you start that will help you and your attorney lay the groundwork for filing a successful lawsuit.

1. Attempt to solve your dispute out of court

A multitude of disputes and disagreements can be resolved outside of the courtroom. Most individuals would rather avoid the pricey nature of legal action and may be open to negotiations, depending on the matter at hand. By attempting to come to an agreement, you can avoid unnecessary legal fees and the timeframes that go along with them.

2. Define your case

Your attorney should be as thorough as possible when crafting your claim. You want to ensure that the problem is clearly defined, as well as the steps that were taken to attempt to resolve the issue.

Provide your attorney with a list of events leading up to your claim with a clear timeline of the event(s) in question. The facts will likely be shown in numbered paragraphs in a complaint, one fact per paragraph, typically in chronological order. Be sure to provide a comprehensive list of all individuals and entities involved with your claim.

3. Decide which court is appropriate to use

Determining which court your case should be heard in will help ensure a timely response to your claim. Your attorney will research your state’s procedures for different types of claims. Sending a personal claim that’s usually handled on a county level to a federal court will usually result in getting caught in bureaucratic limbo, wasting valuable time and resources getting your case to the correct place.

The media depicts a scant representation of the processes involved with getting your case started, and more often than not, these processes are not “one size fits all”.

4. Drafting your complaint

Your attorney will have in mind certain basic elements in the drafting of your complaint:

  • Compile a detailed list of the parties involved within the lawsuit – List names in separate, numbered paragraphs. Accompany each name with the individual’s address or the address of the place of business to ensure the correct person or persons are served the necessary legal documents.
  • List the factual events surrounding the incident that pertains to your case – organize the facts in paragraphs; usually one paragraph per fact in order occurrence will suffice. Listing information like what color eyes the other person in question has is less helpful than you’d think.
  • Be distinct with your claims – Explain in detail why the person or business you’re suing owes you money or goods because of the facts you’ve listed, making sure to note them in their own numbered paragraphs. Make sure that the claims support the incident in question, keeping them in chronological order to reduce confusion.
  • Make a clear request of relief to the court – In the final paragraph the document, the request to the court to approve the appropriate compensation should be clearly listed. This can include goods and/or services, funds, or other demands suitable for the complaint.
  • Demand a jury – Your attorney should demand a jury at this point in your complaint if the type of lawsuit you’re filing allows you to have one. Omitting this step may give up your right to a jury trial.
  • Add a certificate of service – The complaint must be legally served upon the person you’re suing to ensure that they have ample and fair notice of the lawsuit against them. Your attorney knows that listing this on the document proves to the court that you’ve utilized an approved method of delivery.

5. Time

After all that information has been collected, and the complaint is filed, be sure to mark important dates on your calendar.

By making sure your documentation is in good order, you’ll be of great assistance to your attorney, and together you will be able to begin the process of filing a lawsuit with the goal of a successful and just outcome.

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James Swartz, our Managing and Principal Attorney at Swartz & Swartz P.C., is a nationally recognized and respected trial attorney as well as consumer advocate. His practice focuses on cases involving negligence, torts, products liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and other claims involving catastrophic injuries.



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