How to File a Lawsuit Without the Help of An Attorney
The American legal system is truly second to none, regardless of its flaws and frustrations. It’s as fair and balanced as humanly possible, and offers people the chance to find some restitution if they’ve been wronged. If you feel this has happened to you, you have the ability to file a lawsuit to handle the situation. Most people will hire an attorney to represent them in this process, but legal fees can be difficult to handle. If you are looking to file a suit, chances are it’s not a criminal case. Many people choose to represent themselves in small claims court, especially if they have a good handle on the laws and feel they are wholly in the right. But you’ll have to understand the rules of “pro se litigation”, or else you could make any number of small mistakes that cost you the result you are hoping for. So here are some steps to help you file a lawsuit without the help of an attorney.
The first thing you have to do is figure out how to find the defendant. You can’t sue an individual or a corporation unless you can serve them with papers. Find out where the defendant lives, as this is where you will file suit. You could also choose to file in the county where the incident in question occurred. But the court that handles the matter will always be where the defendant lives, not where you reside.
Next you’ve got to think about the claim you’re going to make. This can be a tricky process, coming up with a number that would represent a satisfactory conclusion. Ask for too much, and the judge will surely think you are trying to take advantage of the system. Ask for too little and it simply won’t be worth the investment of time and energy. But you’ll also file with a different court depending on the financial amount. Under a certain level and you’ll go to small claims court, which is a far easier process. Research the limits in your state, as this varies depending on local laws.
Once you’ve landed on the amount in controversy, head to the courthouse. Ask the clerk for a complaint form, which is the first part of the process. In some states you might be able to download these forms from the court’s website. You’ll fill in all of the basic information, and a short description of the facts that have led you to file this suit. With the complaint form filled out, you’re now ready to file your lawsuit. Your best bet is to bring it in personally, handing it to the court clerk and paying the filing fee. That fee will be dependent on the state in which you’re filing, and the total claim amount. At this point, the court can serve notice to the defendant, but it will cost you a bit of money. You can also just mail the forms to the defendant yourself. Make sure you mail it registered, so you receive a notice when it’s been accepted.
Now you’ll head into the claim process itself. If you plan on representing yourself, you might want to at least take out a quick lawsuit loan so you can afford a bit of legal consulting. You can even take out car accident settlement loans, which are advances on your expected earnings from a successful lawsuit. You might be tempted to skip this step as well, and the final call will be entirely up to you. But if it isn’t an open and shut case it may be worth it to get a bit of legal advice at this point. You don’t want to go through this whole process only to land on an unsatisfactory result.
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