What Happens If I File a Lawsuit?


You may have many different reasons to file a lawsuit.

For example, if you were injured in a serious car accident, you might need a personal injury attorney in Orange County or wherever you live. After all, you’re going to have to swim through the waters of police reports, insurance claims, medical appointments, medical bills, etc., and you might not get the reimbursement you deserve.

So, what happens if you file a lawsuit?

First things first. You file the lawsuit, ideally, with the help of a lawyer. You need a justified reason to file a lawsuit, such as being seriously injured in an accident. And because it’s not clear in every situation who you’re supposed to sue, you have to find out who’s at fault, such as the other driver in a car accident or the owner of the car even if someone else was driving the vehicle — this is why it’s important to seek professional help.

You will need the person’s name and address to file the lawsuit, which you likely already have because your insurance companies are in conversations with one another and other exchanged documents. (The process to sue a business can be different and might not be relevant in a car accident.)

Once you have the necessary information, you file a complaint that will state information such as why the lawsuit is being filed and damages (how much money the plaintiff, the person filing the lawsuit, is asking for).

The defendant, or the person being sued, must respond to the complaint by the deadline stated. The defendant will respond to the claims and have a chance to deny the allegations if necessary.

During the next phase, known as discovery, each party will have the opportunity to collect information, such as asking either party to produce relevant documents. This can be more straightforward (but not always simple) in a car accident because there should be a police report on record as well as other information.

Each party will need to respond to the discovery in a timely and factual manner. Not doing so can lead to serious consequences. During this step, the plaintiff, which is you, can file a motion that asks the judge to enforce the discovery requests against the defendant. A hearing could then take place in which both parties will have to appear in court for the judge to make a decision. However, a judge can also make a formal ruling in writing without a hearing. If the defendant doesn’t respond to the complaint, an entry of default can be filed by the plaintiff, and the judge will review this motion and make a ruling. If the motion is approved, the defendant will have to pay damages or dispute the judgment in a specified time period. If the defendant continues to be unresponsive, he or she can be found in contempt of court.

The final step is mediation in which a settlement is typically reached between parties. If an agreement isn’t reached or the case goes to trial, a judge or jury will make a ruling and enter a judgment based on the evidence and arguments of the parties.

The losing party will have to pay on the judgment. If he or she fails to pay, the winning party may have to enforce the judgment, which involves filing a petition for contempt, having the losing party served by authorities, and submitting proof of service to the clerk of court to obtain a court hearing. The court will use legal means to obtain a judgment such as garnishment of wages.

Every lawsuit is different, but it’s always important to have a strong case before filing a lawsuit and to seek professional help during this process.