A civil lawsuit is a dispute between two or more parties seeking financial damages for wrongdoing. Civil cases have nothing to do with criminal charges.
These cases can have a variety of purposes from seeking money damages in a car crash, litigating a wrongful termination claim, or pursuing a claim for medical negligence. Even divorce and bankruptcy claims are considered civil cases.
Washington state does not require you to have a lawyer to file a civil lawsuit, but you may find that navigating the court system, submitting the required paperwork and presenting your case will be overwhelming and confusing without the guidance of an experienced attorney by your side.
3 steps to filing a civil lawsuit violation
Initiating a lawsuit includes three important steps. These steps are the beginning of getting financial restitution for wrongdoings against you.
Here’s a look at how to initiate your civil lawsuit:
1. Hire an attorney
This first step is optional, but you’ll find it’s probably preferable in the end, requiring less time from you to complete the lawsuit and perhaps securing a larger settlement.
Look for an attorney who works specifically in the type of civil violation you’re filing a lawsuit for. This might be a personal injury attorney, employment law attorney, or a malpractice attorney.
Schedule a consultation with a couple of attorneys to learn more about their practice and their thoughts on your case. Most attorneys provide a free consultation to get to know you and your needs (for example, here at the Gilbert Law Firm we offer a free initial consultation).
Learn about the attorney’s fee structure, what you can expect during your court proceedings and their thoughts on settlement negotiations. With a good attorney, you might not have to go to court.
2. File the case with the appropriate party
Before you can file some types of civil lawsuits in court, you might need to report them to a local board or federal agency.
For example, discrimination cases need to be reported to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Once you’ve completed the required filings to report your civil violations to the appropriate parties, you’re ready to file your case in court.
The amount you’re seeking in your settlement and the location where the violation took place will often determine which court you file your case in.
However, there are exceptions available to where a claim can/should be brought in certain situations, and depending on the type of case, it’s helpful to have an attorney help you in choosing exactly where you should file your complaint.
Your attorney will know where and how to file your case with the proper court authorities to get things started.
3. Serving the defendant
The final step in the process of filing a civil lawsuit is to serve the defendant in the case. This is the party that you’re naming in your lawsuit as having done you wrong in some way.
You’ll complete a Summons or Complaint form based on your lawsuit type. This will then be delivered to the defendant to make them aware of the case against them. You cannot deliver a complaint or summon yourself. This is generally completed by law enforcement or a neutral third party.
What to expect next
Once your case is filed and the defendant is made aware of what’s going on, your court case will proceed. This will include preparing evidence in your case and negotiating with the defendant and their legal team.
You might never go to court over a civil lawsuit because it is possible to negotiate a settlement outside of court. This is generally more favorable for all parties involved as you avoid court fees, a lengthy process, and the headache of reliving everything you’ve been through.
The Gilbert Law Firm is here to help
For top-notch advice and a team of lawyers who fight for your rights, contact the Gilbert Law Firm. We’ll listen to your situation and provide advice on the best next steps for you based on your circumstances. Protect your rights by contacting us today.