If you’re reading this, unfortunately you have likely been harmed by someone else to yourself personally or your organization.  Assuming all attempts to amicably settle the matter prior to filing a lawsuit have been exhausted, your only recourse to make you/your organization whole is to file a lawsuit.  Below are some things to consider should you want to file a lawsuit and some of the ways to file. 

Type of suit

In our legal system, there are a different reasons to file a lawsuit.  For most individuals or organizations, the two most common types of lawsuits seek monetary damages due to a tort (i.e. bodily injury, property damage, etc.) or breach of contract.  The process for each of these types of lawsuits is generally very similar in terms of identifying who to sue and filing the paperwork.  Other types of lawsuits can be for an injunction (prevent someone from taking an action) or class actions (filing on behalf of many people).  Figuring out what type of lawsuit you want to file is the first step.

Now What?

Now that you know what type of lawsuit you want to file, the next step is drafting the lawsuit and getting it filed.  If you haven’t already talked to an attorney at this point, this would be a critical time to seek counsel.  Attorneys should know exactly what needs to be filed, which court it needs to be filed in and what the lawsuit needs to allege.

Small Claim

For example, in New Jersey, you can file a small claims action (under $3,000) or a special civil action ($3,001-$15,000) by easily filing out a few pieces of paper and mailing it to the Court.  These actions you may consider representing yourself “pro se” (without an attorney) given the limited amount of money at stake.  While these small cases generally are quicker to resolve, they are only allowed for certain limited types of cases (contracts, auto, some bodily injury, etc.). 

What to expect

Now that your lawsuit has been filed, in most cases the lawsuit will take a normal path.  The paperwork will be filed with the Court and must be served on the Defendant.  The Defendant has a certain amount of time to respond or answer the lawsuit.  Generally, the parties will then engage in discovery where each party is required to answer written questions, turn over documents and conduct depositions.  Depending on the type of case, this process usually lasts longer than a year.  Often, the Court will mandate the parties also proceed to mediation or arbitration to see if a case can be settled prior to having a trial. 

Filing a lawsuit can be an expensive, time consuming and serve as a distraction to you and your organization.  If you are considering filing a lawsuit related to an insurance matter, talk to your attorney or Borden Perlman first.