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What is a Lawsuit?

Lawsuits are common means to formulate a legal remedy. Lawsuits are initiated by a plaintiff after the individual (or business) has experienced a loss monies or bodily harm, as a result of an entity’s (individual or business) actions or negligence. Lawsuits are filed every day by individuals and businesses who are engaged in a conflict with another entity. 

Suppose you get injured in a car accident, because some ran a stop sign, or you fall on a puddle of spilled cooking oil in a grocery store; both of these incidences will warrant the filing of a lawsuit in the form of a personal injury claim. In the first example, the driver who hit you disobeyed traffic laws, causing you to get in an accident. In the second example, the manager or employees at the grocery store were negligent in their clean-up, which in turn, led to your slip. Although these situations occur daily, sometimes the loss of monies or bodily injury are precipitated in a less conspicuous manner. 

Suppose your landlord claims you broke a couch in your pre-furnished apartment, but you knew the couch was broken when you moved in. The forms you signed at the time of the move never specified the couch. Are you responsible for replacing the couch? Can your landlord file a lawsuit against you? Before filing or engaging in a lawsuit you must understand the basics associated with civil procedure to gauge whether you have a legitimate lawsuit or not. 

The Essence of Civil Law:

Before deciding on whether you have a case, you must understand the basics of civil law. There is a tremendous difference between a civil trial and a criminal trial. When you sue someone (seek compensation for damages sustained or monies lost) it is typically based on tort law. This basis is far different than a criminal trial, which revolves around felonies or serious crimes. 

What are Torts?

Torts are held separate from criminal laws; a tort does not imply the breaking of a law, but instead a direct or indirect action (negligence) that results in an injury (physically, emotionally or mentally) or the loss of monies for another person or entity. Torts are crucial to understand when asking yourself, do I have a lawsuit? Torts, in essence, provide the foundation for a lawsuit. Examples of specific torts include: battery, negligence, product liability, intentional infliction of emotional distress and trespassing. In general; however, torts fall into the following three categories: negligent torts (a failure to act on the part of an individual or entity that results in an accident), intentional torts (direct actions that result in a loss or injury) and strict liability torts (being liable for damages cause by products that caused injury or loss).

Tort law was created to compensate victims for losses incurred and to help prevent future losses by enforcing laws on the defendant. For this reason, there are two distinct types of damages sought during a lawsuit: compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Compensatory damages require the defendant to pay-back money to the plaintiff for losses incurred as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Additional monies may be delivered to make up for opportunity costs or the undue stress experienced by the plaintiff. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are the monies the defendant has to pay as punishment for being reckless, negligent or malicious. 

Questions to Gauge whether you have a Lawsuit:

• What Laws apply to your case?

• Did you suffer an injury or monetary loss as a result of an individual or business’ action? Was the action direct or negligent? 

• Do you have enough evidence to prove your case? 

• Do you have any witnesses to help you prove your case?

• Determine the legal costs you will incur in bringing your suit to fruition

• Consider whether you will be able to collect from the defendant if a judgment goes in your favor