Auto accident claims typically settle without a lawsuit. However, you have the right to file a lawsuit if you can’t settle with the defendant. Below are the two major steps you need to start a lawsuit.
1. File the Complaint
The first step to a lawsuit is to file an official complaint. The complaint gives an overview of your case against the liable party. Below are some of the things to include in the complaint.
Identify the major parties to the complaint. Include yourself as the complainant and the liable party/parties as the defendant/defendants. The identification should include your respective names (legal names) and your addresses.
Case Facts and Elements
You should also identify the facts of the case. The relevant facts include:
- The rationale for the case jurisdiction
- The date of the accident
- The action of the defendant
- A brief description of the accident
- The rationale for the defendant’s liability
- Your injuries
- Your damages
The case facts or elements should be factual and concise. Leave the arguments for later stages of the case, such as the discovery phase or trial.
After you have given a brief overview of your case, you should quote your demand. State the actual dollar amount you want the defendant to pay you.
Civil courts charge a nominal fee for filing lawsuits. The fee is typically in the range of a few hundreds of dollars. Note that you can include the fee in your demand. Depending on your case, the court may order the defendant to compensate for this fee if you win your case.
2. Serve the Defendant
Once you have paid the filing fee, you have to inform the defendant that you have filed a civil suit against them. Service of process is the process of informing the defendant about the lawsuit. Before you do that, however, a court official has to prepare the service papers, which include:
- A copy of your complaint
- The summons that requires the defendant to answer to your case within a specific period
Each state determines the rules and regulations that govern service of process. However, the following are some of the ways you can serve the defendant.
In this case, you pay a small fee to the local sheriff, and they deliver the service documents on your behalf. In Missouri, a deputy sheriff or clerk can act on behalf (and with the same authority) as the sheriff.
You can also use professional process servers to deliver the documents for a fee. Each state determines who can act as a process server. For example, Missouri specifies a minimum age of 21, formal training, and a high school diploma. Thus, you shouldn’t just pick anyone to act as your process server.
Some states allow you to serve the defendant by certified mail that specifies a return receipt. That way, you can confirm that the defendant received the service papers. Note that Illinois only allows service by certified mail for claims that don’t exceed $10,000.
You can also use a substitute service if you are unable to locate the defendant. Substitute service allows you to serve another person who lives in the same household as the defendant. For example, if the defendant leaves with their uncle, you can hand over the papers to the uncle if you can’t locate the defendant. You must do this at the defendant’s residence.
Every detail matters — you must follow the law to the letter when filing your lawsuit. Fortunately, the lawyers at Cantor Injury Law understand the process. We will help you get everything right. Contact us for a consultation for help with any personal injury case you may have.