Legal overview: Filing a civil lawsuit in Indiana

POST DATE: 10.24.19
Ccha  Litigation

No one looks forward to managing legal issues but being prepared and knowing your options is the best way to set yourself up for success.

Two kinds of cases are heard in the trial courts: civil cases and criminal cases. Civil cases involve conflicts between people or institutions, such as businesses. Divorce and related lawsuits (child support, custody, etc.) account for a very large number of civil cases. Other common civil cases involve contracts (written or oral agreements) and personal injury, as well as traffic violations or infractions.

A civil case usually begins when a person or organization determines that a problem cannot be solved without going to court. In civil cases, one (or more) of these persons brings suit by filing a document called a complaint, which usually gives a very general description of the problem and why you think the other party is liable to you. Once filed, the lawsuit begins. Filing a lawsuit is the first step of litigation.

Before filing a complaint, you should calculate the claim amount and total damages you think you may be entitled to. A civil complaint for under $6,000 is heard as a small claims case. Complaints with claims of higher amounts may be seen in the other county courts, whether they are circuit courts or superior courts.

It is usually important to file a lawsuit in the correct county and to ensure that Indiana has personal jurisdiction over the person or entity you are suing. A business’s location or individual's residence address, if in Indiana, can generally be used to establish personal jurisdiction. To determine which county the lawsuit should be filed in, use the address and ZIP code of where the contract was signed, the agreement was broken, where an accident occurred, or where the defendant lives.

Different courts may require you to complete different types of court forms for the type of case you are filing. When writing a complaint, include the legal name of the other party and the exact address. Complaints can then be filed by mail or in person. You may also be able to file a complaint online depending on the court. When you file a complaint to initiate a lawsuit, you will also have to pay a filing fee or request a fee waiver.

Serving the summons comes next. Service of process can be made by a process server or a person 18 years or older who is not a party to the case. Service of process can also be achieved by certified mail or by asking the county sheriff’s office to post the complaint and summons on an individual’s residence or business’s office.

CCHA represents individual and business clients throughout Indiana in both state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate levels. Our attorneys have handled cases ranging from small claims court matters, to extremely complex litigation matters resulting in arguments or written briefs before the Indiana Supreme and the United States Supreme Court. Our attorneys understand that personal and business disputes can disrupt and impact the financial stability of any individual, family or company.

Contact us today to review your case and to evaluate options for assisting you in the resolution of your personal or business dispute.