How to Sue Someone

Although the process will be somewhat different depending on which state or province you are in, and what level of court you are in, the following is a basic overview of the common steps involved in starting and carrying out a lawsuit in most North American jurisdictions.

Before you can sue someone, you need what’s called a ‘cause of action’.  A cause of action is the reason which gives rise to the lawsuit.  For example, if someone hits you with their car and causes you injury, you may have a cause of action against them, and therefore a reason to sue them.  Another example commonly seen could be if you slip and fall for example in a shopping mall, or place of business. If the dangerous condition of the place of business caused you to slip and fall, you may have a cause of action against.  This is called a negligence lawsuit and is often the cause of action used in personal injury cases.  It is always recommended that you at least consult a lawyer to determine if you have a cause of action or not. It isn’t always clear, or as simple as you may think. A lawyer’s legal training and legal experience cannot be replaced.

Step 1: Preparing and Filing the Statement of Claim and Notice of Action

In most places, a lawsuit is started by filing what is called a Notice of Action and Statement of Claim with the appropriate court.  The Notice of Action is a document that puts the court and the other side on notice that you are pursuing your claim against them. This sets out that a claim has been started, what the other side must do to defend the claim if they choose, and where the proceeding will take place.

The Statement of Claim is an accompanying document which gives details of the cause of action and claim you are seeking from the other side, and the remedy you want. There are special forms required by the courts when filing these documents to ensure that they are done properly.

Step 2: Serving the Claim

Usually, after you file the lawsuit, you have to serve notice of it on the other side and provide proof that the other side was served.  The court requires proof that the other side was served because in order to proceed to further stages, the other side has to have an opportunity to defend the lawsuit if they choose to.

There you have it. a lawsuit is commenced by following these steps. However, there is a lot more involved in following through with a lawsuit. If the defendant decides to defend, the process can take up to several years to complete. If the defendant doesn’t defend, it can be wrapped up pretty quickly.  The lawsuit will end with a court order of some sort. If you get the order you were seeking you don’t automatically get what you want. There are steps involved in enforcing the order, which can also take a long time.