Filing a Federal Lawsuit
By Mary Ann Pekara
Federal courts are reputed to be more formal than state courts. As a result, federal courts are often more strict about filing deadlines and presenting proper paperwork.
The forms you may need in order to file a federal lawsuit depend in large part on the nature of your case. A personal injury lawsuit, for example, begins with a formal complaint, and may include a wide range of petitions and motions.
Since the proper filing of forms could make or break a federal lawsuit, many people turn to local attorneys to help guide their case. To connect with an attorney in your area for a free consultation and learn about your options when considering a lawsuit, simply fill out the brief case review form below.
Federal Lawsuit Basics
While the forms required to file a federal lawsuit may change from case to case, there is one key form that usually must be filed to begin the lawsuit. This form is commonly known as the complaint.
Complaints in federal lawsuits must tell the court who you are suing, why you are filing the suit, and what kind of relief you are seeking.
Writing a complaint can be tricky, as there are a number of potential pitfalls for the legal novice, including:
- Too little information. If you do not give the defendant enough information to create a defense, the court may dismiss your complaint.
- Too much information. On the other hand, cases may be lost by including extraneous information in the complaint that defeats the lawsuit before it begins.
- Legal conclusions with no facts. If you only offer legal conclusions, like "Tom was negligent," instead of actual facts, like "Tom ran a red light and hit me with his car," the court may dismiss your case.
- Improper jurisdiction. A lawsuit may be filed in federal court only if: (1) the U.S. government is being sued or is suing another party, (2) the lawsuit is being brought because of a violation of a federal law, or (3) the plaintiff and the defendant are from different states and the plaintiff is seeking a certain amount in damages.
Of course, to file an adequate complaint, the writer should also have a familiarity with the laws governing the case, and know the procedural rules of the court in which the complaint will be filed.
In brief, filing a lawsuit in federal court does not simply entail filling out a few forms. Even the most basic forms require careful attention so as not to violate a court rule.
For more information about your area's personal injury laws and the procedural rules of your regional federal court, connect with a local injury attorney today.