When you have a tort, or civil claim, you may know that you can file a lawsuit to recover damages due to the wrongful or negligent act of the other party. However, most people do not know how to file a civil lawsuit to recover the damages they deserve. Whether you want to file a breach of contract claim, defamation claim, or any other type of civil lawsuit, it is important to know what type of lawsuit you must file, and where to file it.
When litigation becomes necessary, you need competent, dedicated representation in court or in alternative dispute resolution. Beth Santilli Law is an experienced civil litigation firm in Mt. Pleasant, SC who will provide individualized counsel and fight to protect your interests and rights. Get in touch with us today to request a consultation.
Filing a Lawsuit in Small Claims Court
Any claim that is valued at $7,500 or less may be filed in Magistrate’s Court, or Small Claims Court. While the Rules of Evidence apply in Small Claims Court, the procedural rules are more relaxed. Small Claims Court is intended to provide a quicker and more affordable way for people to claim the damages they deserve. For this reason, and the fact that these cases are not of very high values, many people choose to represent themselves without the help of an attorney.
To file a civil lawsuit in Small Claims Court, you simply visit the magistrate’s office in your area and explain the circumstances surrounding the claim. After paying a small filing fee, the clerk will assist you with filling out the necessary paperwork and will send it to the other party. They will have 30 days to answer the Small Claims Court Complaint. From there, the proceedings will begin.
Although many people represent themselves in Small Claims Court, it is still advisable to meet with a civil litigation attorney beforehand. A lawyer can meet with your briefly and advise on your claim, how much it is worth, and help prepare you for Small Claims Court to give you the best chance of success with your case.
Filing a Lawsuit in Circuit Court
Circuit courts are much more formal than Small Claims Court, and the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure and the South Carolina Rules of Evidence are strictly applied.
- Work with an Attorney. For these reasons, it is always advisable to work with an attorney when filing a lawsuit with the circuit court. An attorney will help you file the lawsuit correctly and assist with the process. Before a lawsuit is even filed, an attorney may send a demand letter to the defendant. The demand letter will outline your complaint and demand that the defendant pays the damages you are seeking. The demand letter will also state that if the defendant is unwilling to pay the damages, you will then file a lawsuit to obtain the damages.
- File and Serve. To file a civil lawsuit with the circuit court, you must adhere to the requirements outlined by the Rules of Civil Procedure. After you have filed your complaint, it is then served to the defendant along with a Summons, which states the date of the first court hearing.
- The Discovery Process. After the lawsuit is officially filed with the appropriate court, your lawyer will start the discovery process. Discovery is intended to allow both sides to collect information from the other parties. Your lawyer may ask the other party for certain documents, or they may depose witnesses they intend to call to testify during the trial. During a deposition, the witness will give testimony under oath and it can indicate whether a witness is going to help or hurt a case.
- Settlement Negotiations. It is important to know that before and after the lawsuit is filed, settlement negotiations are ongoing. During negotiations, the defendant may offer a settlement. Your attorney nay then counter that offer with something they feel is fairer. Even once a trial begins, settlement negotiations often continue. So, while your lawyer is collecting documents and making requests of the other side, they will also be negotiating with the other side to reach a settlement that is fair to you.
- Mediation. When a fair settlement has not been reached after the discovery phase, you will likely have to enter mediation, which is mandatory in almost every county in South Carolina. During mediation, you and the other party will meet together with a neutral third-party mediator. The mediator will not give legal advice or make decisions. They only try to foster communication and compromise so you and the other party can reach an agreement. If an agreement is reached, the mediator will submit it to a judge for approval. When an agreement is not reached, the case will go to trial.
- Trial. It is rare for a civil lawsuit to make it to the trial stage. If yours does, your lawyer will present opening arguments and argue your case using evidence and witness testimony. Once your side has been heard by the court, the jury or judge will deliberate and come to a decision on the case. The judge or jury will return a verdict and a judgment will be entered. This judgment is final and legally-binding, although an appeal is also always possible, particularly if the drive to litigate is strong with either party. Appeals are heard in the appeals court and must be filed with the appropriate appeals court.
Get Legal Help Today
Regardless of the type of civil claim you have, or what court you are filing a complaint with, the experienced civil litigation lawyers at Beth Santilli Law, LLC can assist with your case. Our knowledgeable attorneys can help you file your lawsuit, prepare you for court, and give you the best chance of a successful outcome. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and obtain the legal advice you need.