Life Of A Lawsuit: 10 steps to filing a civil lawsuit

Many people wonder why civil lawsuits take so long to receive a judgement. They often take years, months, etc. for you to recieve any sort of judgement or payments at all. Not all civil suits are the same and some have more steps than others but here is an example of  how to file for a civil lawsuits against clients who owe a company money.
Step One: The company should send out bills or some sort of notification that the payment is owed, and past due to the company. Sometimes these notices will get returned usually for a bad addresses therefore you need to do some detective work to find a more accurate address. This step could take a few months depending how long you give the client during notices and whether a not any notices get returned.
Step Two: Once you have made every possible step to notify the client and give them a chance to pay, you are ready to start your lawsuit. At this point you would want to gather any sort of documents that you have proving that you have tried to make contact and that they have not responded or made any payments. You then form your argument in a document called a “Complaint.” This is where you lay out all your arguments as to why you are owed that money and why that client should pay you. You also need an affidavit which clarifies that what you are putting in your complaint is, to the best of your knowledge, accurate. This needs to be notorized. Depending on how long it takes you to gather your documents and write your complaint this could also take a few weeks.
Step Three: With your complaint you also need a document called a “Summons and Complaint.” This is a form that you get through the courts that basically spells out why a particular court should be able to hear your case due to the location of the parties and where the event took place.
Step Four: You will then make several copies of all the documents you have prepared, this is so there are enough copies for the courts to keep for their records and enough for you to have for your own records. Depending on the court that you want to file in (Mainly this would be where the person you are sueing is located), you will either go down to the court to file in person, or do it through certified mail. (Generally courts will allow you to do this by mail). You will need to either send in or bring a check for the filing fee’s associated with your case. This amount is dependent upon the amount that you are suing for. If this is sent through the mail this could take days to weeks to return depending on how fast it takes the court to file.
Step Five: If you file in person you will get time stamped copies handed back to you, or if you send them in by mail you will have at least one copy returned to you. Once you get the time stamped copies it is now time to serve the person that you are trying to sue a copy of the Complaint & Summons and complaint. You can do this through a person personally serving a copy or through certified mail with returned receipt. If you do choose to do it through certified mail, however, there is a chance that they will reject the letter and then you will have to try and serve it personally. This step could take quite a while depending on how easy/hard it is to serve the person. If they do not accept the service and you have to make several attempts it could take longer in order to get proper service.
Step Six: Once you either receive back proof that your complaint was served or you personally serve someone you have to fill out a form, through the courts, called a “Proof of Service” form. This can either be personally filed or done through the mail as well. This form basically is to tell the court that you have served this person and how. This also needs to be notorized. If you served through certified mail you have to also supply a copy of the returned receipts for the court as proof that it was accepted. For this step you also want to make several copies so that the courts have enough and you also have your own copy.
Step Seven: Once a person is properly served they have 21 days from that date (including weekends and holidays, but CAN NOT end on a holiday or weekend-you would go to the next week day/non holiday) to respond with an answer to the complaint. If you do not recieve an answer from them then you may file an order with the court requesting for a default judgement entered against the client. This means basically the court will rule in your favor because the defendent failed to answer your complaint. You can only do this if the amount your are requesting in the judgement is the same that you requested in your orginial complaint.
Step Eight: Once you recieve a time stamped copy of the order for default judgement, you must serve it upon the defendant. They then have 21 days from the date of proper service (including weekends and holidays but CAN NOT end on a holidy or weekend-you would go to the next week day/non holiday) to respond to the order for default judgement and to file a motion to set aside the judgement.
Step Nine: If after those 22 days have passed there has been no notice or orders by the defendant the judgement becomes binding.
Step Ten: At this point you are able to go to the court to start requesting garnishments, etc. in order to get the money that is due from your judgement.
As you can see, with the time frames, waiting on documents, and responses this can be quite the lengthy process. Depending on what your case may be there could be more or less steps then this. The process can be lengthy and confusing which is why in many situations it is good to have an attorney there to help guide you through the steps.
If you have questions about a judgement against you contact Ambrose Law Group at (248) 624-5500
Kristen@ambroselawgroup.com
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