How to Sue Someone: The Basics

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How do you sue someone? If you’ve been injured or have suffered due to someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or intentional actions, you may deserve financial compensation for your damages. But what does that mean? Where do you start? Our Tampa injury attorneys explain the basics of how to sue.

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1. Determine What You Are Suing For

The first step in bringing a lawsuit is determining what cause or causes of action you have. In other words, what are you suing for? A claim may be for personal injury, breach of contract, owed money, medical malpractice, or something else.

Even within personal injury, there are multiple grounds for compensation like:

Once you identify the causes of action you have, you can figure out how to sue someone for car accident injuries, defamation of character, slander, or other reasons. Then, continue preparing your lawsuit.

2. Identify Who You Are Suing

When you plan to file a legal suit, you need to know who you are suing. The party must specifically have legal liability for the cause of action. For example, if someone owes you money, you’re suing the person responsible for not paying you.

If your case is a personal injury claim, the party responsible may be an employer, manufacturer, or another driver on the road. You may name more than one defendant, but a defendant must be named to be part of the case.

3. Figure Out What Court Has Jurisdiction

Now you know who you are suing and the cause. Next, you need to know what court has jurisdiction in your case. There are multiple courts in each state, and different courts specialize in various cases.

Usually, you file the case in the court that hears that type of case, in the location where the harm occurred. Sometimes, there may be multiple options for what court can hear the case. Where you file may make a difference in what laws and procedural rules apply. In Florida, you must determine which of these courts has jurisdiction:

  1. Florida small claims courts are county courts that settle minor disputes valued up to $8,000. Speak with a lawyer to learn how to sue someone in small claims court.
  2. If your case is worth $30,000 or less, it begins in a county court.
  3. Circuit courts hear civil disputes valued at $30,000 or more.

Once you determine the appropriate court, you prepare the documents for filing a claim in that court.

4. Draft the Complaint

The complaint is the first paperwork you need to file to formally start a lawsuit. It summarizes the parties, the facts, the legal theories for your claim, and what you want as a remedy. The Hillsborough County court calls it a Statement of Claim.

A complaint summarizes the case. It should be accurate, thorough, and stick to the facts. Refer to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 1.110¹ for information on the General Rules of Pleading.

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5. Complete the Filing Documents

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There are other documents that you need to file with the court to begin your case, in addition to the complaint. The exact documents and the format vary from court to court.

The Hillsborough County 13th Circuit Court and the County Court require parties to submit Form 1.997 – Civil Cover Sheet. The form assists the court in keeping accurate statistics as well as appropriately managing the case in the court system. There are instructions for completing Form 1.997. The form states:

  • The parties
  • The division of court
  • The amount of claim
  • Type of case
  • Remedy sought
  • Jury demand
  • A number of other details

You must also complete a Request for Issuance of Summons. You will need to prepare a separate request for each defendant.

6. Submit Your Filing Documents

For Hillsborough County cases, you can e-File the case through the E-filing ePortal, or appear in person at the clerk of court. The e-portal is available for use 24/7. You should figure out if the case will go to the East Division or the Tampa division.

There is a filing fee to pay, and the amount varies based on the type of case. For a civil action exceeding $30,000 in Circuit Court, the fee is $400.00.

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7. Serve the Other Party

The other party has a right to know that they are being sued. It’s up to the plaintiff to ensure that each defendant receives copies of the legal documents. Florida Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 1.070² governs the issuance of summons and who can complete service of process.

A process server must be authorized, but the court may allow a competent person who does not have an interest in the legal proceeding. The person who completes service submits a proof of service document. Each party must be served.

A summons is good for 120 days. If service isn’t complete, the court may extend the time upon good cause or neglect. They may also direct service to be completed within a certain time frame or drop the defendant as a party.

8. Proceed With the Lawsuit

Suing someone is only the beginning of the case. Just filing the legal documents does not entitle you to compensation. You need to prove your right to compensation. Once the case is filed, the defense can respond.

It’s important to take advantage of legal procedures, including discovery and motion filing, to build your case. There will be deadlines to file scheduling orders and briefs. You must complete all these steps and respond to issues raised by the defense.

How to Sue Someone – FAQs

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How much does it cost to sue someone?

It’s difficult to say the average cost of how much to sue someone can be. It really depends on several factors, including the type of case, which court has jurisdiction, filing and service fees, and other direct costs.

How long does it take to sue someone?

Because every case is different and some are more complex than others, the timeframe of a lawsuit can vary from a few weeks to as long as several months or years to reach a settlement. To work through the legal system as quickly and efficiently as possible, it’s always best to work with an attorney who has experience with your type of case.

How long do you have to sue someone?

How long can you wait to sue someone? It depends on the statute of limitations set by the law. The statute of limitations is not the same for every type of lawsuit. However, the time limit for most personal injury cases in Florida is 4 years, according to Florida Statute 95.11(3)(a)³. If you plan to take legal action, try to speak with a legal professional as soon as possible to see how long you have to file your claim.

How old do you have to be to sue someone?

In almost all cases, you must legally be the age of majority in order to sue someone. In most states, that age is 18 years. However, some states have extended that age to 19 or 21.

Understanding How to Sue Someone for Money

If the process of how to sue someone sounds complicated, that’s because it is. If you miss procedural steps, it can result in your claim being dismissed. If you’re accused of filing a frivolous claim or motion, Florida Statutes § 57.105⁴ may allow the court to issue sanctions.

Bringing a legal claim on your own can be stressful and overwhelming. Even an innocent mistake may prevent you from receiving the compensation you deserve. That’s why our Tampa personal injury attorneys offer free consultations to answer questions you might have.

Suing for Personal Injury in Florida

Work with experienced, professional injury attorneys who have a history of helping victims receive justice. Our Tampa-based attorneys represent individuals injured in personal injury accidents. We can assist you in filing your claim and handling all aspects of your litigation. Contact Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, to learn more about how we can assist with your claim.

We’re Ready to Fight For You, Speak with our attorneys today to see how much your claim may be worth.


¹Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.110

³FLA. STAT. 95.11(3)(a) (2021)

FLA. STAT § 57.105 (2021)