Perhaps someone damaged your property, or you or a loved one was physically harmed as the result of someone else’s negligence. The damage or injury may have occurred as the result of a car accident, workplace accident or some other occurrence. You have decided you want to bring a lawsuit against the person or people responsible. Now what?
Your first step should be to contact an attorney. An attorney can advise you of your rights, options and potential claims. It is important to do this as soon as possible because based on New York’s statutes of limitations you only have a certain amount of time to bring a personal injury lawsuit. If you file your case too late you may be prevented from receiving damages for your losses.
When you meet with your attorney bring with you any documents you think are relevant to your case. Examples include police records, medical bills and records, and photographs of your injuries, the accident scene or the damaged property.
To start a lawsuit your attorney will file a summons and complaint on your behalf. These documents are also called “pleadings.” If you are the person filing the complaint in a civil case you are the plaintiff. The person being sued is the defendant.
The complaint identifies who the parties are, the basis of the court’s jurisdiction, and outlines the legal basis for the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant and the relevant facts. The complaint also includes a demand for relief where the plaintiff list the compensation or other relief he or she is seeking.
The summons notifies the defendant of the case against him or her, and requires the defendant to respond to the allegations. If you are the plaintiff, your attorney will then serve the summons and complaint on the defendant. The defendant then responds to the complaint by filing an answer.
Source: FindLaw, Starting a Lawsuit: Initial Court Papers.