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What Happens When You Decide to Sue

Making the decision to sue someone is not something that should be undertaken lightly. We’ve all heard jokes about how litigious American society is, and while it’s true that a lot of lawsuits get filed, many are quite legitimate. Innocent people who get hurt because someone else behaved recklessly deserve to be compensated for their suffering. Parties who uphold their end of a contract should be able to enforce its terms. Couples who conclude that they are better off apart must have a way to dissolve their marriage.

Although generalities can be discussed, it is important to note that every lawsuit is based on a unique set of circumstances, and the steps that lead to resolve one situation may unfold differently in another. Expect that while a trial usually only takes a few days, getting to court in the first place can take months or even years. The lengthy wait for a ruling is one of the reasons that many cases are settled.

In deciding to sue, the basic questions to answer are:

  • Who to sue (identification of all responsible parties)?
  • What is needed to file?
  • Where to file (jurisdiction)?
  • When to file (statute of limitations issues)?
  • How much to sue for (valuation of damages)?

For example, if you were injured in a truck accident, you have to determine whether the driver is also the owner. If not, they both must be named. Was the accident caused because of shifting cargo? Then you may have a claim against the loading facility. Was it caused because the brakes weren’t properly maintained? Then you may have a claim against the mechanic. You also need to know what city and county the accident happened in, and you must file your lawsuit within a certain period of time (generally two years for this type of claim in Indiana). You can get a rough estimate of your quantifiable compensatory damages by adding up the medical bills and the car repair bills. Beyond that, it is wise to consult with an attorney to discuss any additional damages you may be able to collect.

The first form to file to begin a civil lawsuit is called the complaint or the petition. This sets out the allegations that the plaintiff or petitioner (that’s the person who starts the case) believes entitles him or her to relief and what relief is being sought. It is accompanied by a summons that lists the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the parties. The defendant or respondent (that’s the person being sued) gets a copy of the complaint and summons and has a short time to file a response or an extension.

The response may come back as an answer admitting or denying the allegations, or it may include its own pleadings setting out defenses or making claims. A defendant can seek a number of actions such as changing the court chosen by the plaintiff or dismissing the claim because it is barred by the limitations period. After these preliminary issues are dealt with, the court establishes deadlines and sets the matter for trial. If at any time the parties are able to compromise, they can enter into an agreement that settles the dispute and simply notify the court that the case has been resolved and should be dismissed.

Some states even have specialized courts that can expedite your case and resulting in faster decisions.  Indiana recently created a set of Commercial Courts designed specifically for that reason to assist businesses receive speedier resolutions to their business disputes.

If you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the attorneys at Church, Langdon, Lopp, Banet Law. We have years of experience helping people and we can help you. Based in New Albany, Indiana, we proudly serve communities throughout Kentuckiana including, but not limited to, Jefferson County, KY; Floyd County, IN; Clark County, IN; and Harrison County, Indiana. For skilled representation, contact us by calling (812) 725-8224 or through our online form.

Attorney Steve Langdon

Attorney Steve LangdonLicensed to practice in both Indiana and Kentucky, Steve Langdon is an experienced elder law and trial attorney. In addition to his litigation and trial work, Steve’s practice includes wills, trusts, probate, Medicaid planning, guardianship, powers of attorney, and advanced directive planning, including living wills and health care surrogate designations. [ Attorney Bio ]

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