Pleadings are the first documents filed in a lawsuit. They are court papers that formally explain the essential views of the parties involved in a legal dispute. Once a complaint is filed, the court process officially begins.
Whether a divorce proceeding or a case involving property damage, most civil cases follow a similar time frame and structure, with different pleadings (document submissions) and motions (queries made to a court) happening at relatively predictable times along the road.
What Are Pleadings?
Pleadings are legal papers presented in court as part of your civil case. Unless the court orders them sealed, pleadings remain part of your case file and are accessible to the public.
The court’s rules of procedure outline the specifics of submitting documents:
- What must be included in a pleading
- The format it must take
- Where it must be filed
- Whether or not there are filing fees
Regardless of where a case is being filed, pleadings should include the court’s name, caption, and docket number. While it may seem like a simple task, you should always consult an attorney to ensure success. Contact a civil litigation attorney in Texas to assist you with every aspect of a civil lawsuit.
For a free legal consultation, call 844-349-9196
Pleadings in a Civil Lawsuit
Pleadings are written papers filed by the parties involved in a case to inform the court and each other about the issues at hand. Common types of pleadings include a complaint, answer, and counterclaim.
When a plaintiff (the person suing) complains about the defendant (who is being sued), the litigation starts. The petition (complaint) is a formal, written declaration of the plaintiff’s causes of action. A civil lawsuit begins with the plaintiff describing the defendant’s wrongdoing and asking the court to help claim compensation.
Complaints in some types of civil lawsuits must be filed using a pre-printed form, which the plaintiff completes by checking off boxes and providing additional information when necessary.
An answer is the written response by the defendant to the lawsuit filed by the plaintiff. The answer contains the defendant’s (often short) response to the charges in the plaintiff’s complaint. The defendant also raises any affirmative defenses (reasons that mitigate or eliminate the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant).
If the plaintiff sought to file a lawsuit after the deadline (established by a statute of limitations) had passed, the defendant might object to the lawsuit in response by arguing that the plaintiff had missed the deadline.
A counterclaim is a claim made by a defendant against a plaintiff in a case when the defendant alleges that the plaintiff caused the defendant injury. For example, if you’re being sued for automobile accident damages but the other driver was at fault (and so, the other driver should pay for your medical bills), you may file a counterclaim against them.
A cross-claim is a claim filed by one party in a lawsuit against another party in the same case. Therefore, one party sues another in a broader case or vice versa.
With the court’s approval, any side might submit an amended pleading to the case that just updates or adds to the previous filing. A party may file a motion to modify a complaint to incorporate new charges, or a defendant may file a motion to amend an answer to include a new affirmative defense.
Uncontested and Contested Cases in Civil Litigation
Contested and uncontested are the two forms of proceedings that exist within civil litigation. It is uncontested when the parties have reached an agreement and are utilizing the legal system to formalize their agreement. It may be necessary and desirable for certain parties to have a court review and approve their agreement.
A contested case is one in which the parties involved have different opinions on how it should be resolved. A judge hears arguments from both parties before making a decision. Even with legal representation, a disputed case will need much more time and effort than an uncontested case.
If you decide to proceed without legal representation, you’ll need to study trial tactics and be ready to explain the details of your case. While doing so, you must also address the opposing party, who will present their legal interpretation of the case. Working with a civil lawyer can simplify the process and allow you to focus on your recovery.
Schedule Your Free Consultation With Civil Attorneys
Although trials add time and expense to already drawn-out cases, they are sometimes required to achieve favorable outcomes. However, most civil cases are settled out of court before trial. This happens when the two sides work out a compromise to end the conflict.
Contact The Buzbee Law Firm to schedule a meeting and discuss your case with our attorneys. We can help you with every aspect of your case and guide you through civil pleadings if necessary. Our attorneys will help you take the right step toward recovering compensation.