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Date Modified: April 3, 2023

A generic lawsuit is a legal action filed in court by one person or entity (the plaintiff) against another person or entity (the defendant) in order to seek a legal remedy or resolution to a dispute. You should know several things if you wish to participate in or file a lawsuit on your own. Let’s look at a few important things to know about lawsuits. First, in most cases, you don’t run off and file lawsuits if you can settle or resolve the case. Typically, the insurer or other party lowballs you, and you are forced to spend money on filing a case and serving all the defendants. So it is not the first thing you do when you are upset or seeking compensation, for example.

Typical Set-Up

The plaintiff will normally argue or allege that the defendant has violated a legal duty or caused harm or injury to the plaintiff in some way and seeks damages.

As a result, a remedy (injunction, etc.) or some other form of relief may also be the object of the relief. Hence, lawsuits can involve a wide range of issues, such as contract disputes, personal injury claims, employment disputes, intellectual property disputes, injunctive relief, etc. The legal process of a lawsuit typically involves several stages, including research, creating of pleadings, filing a lawsuit, service of pleading, discovery, law and motion, trial, and even writs and appeals.

The legal process in a California tort lawsuit can be complex, and it is essential to have an experienced personal injury attorney by your side to guide you through it. I am Los Angeles personal injury attorney Michael Ehline. I work for Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. In this article, I will unravel a typical lawsuit, how it works, and what victims and other plaintiffs must know before creating and filing their personal injury lawsuits.

Typical Parties to a Lawsuit

An individual, a group of individuals, or a corporation can initiate a lawsuit. The plaintiff, who initiates the lawsuit, must demonstrate that they have a valid legal claim against the defendant. In general, the plaintiff must show that they have suffered some harm or injury as a result of the defendant’s actions or omissions and that the defendant is legally responsible for that harm or injury.

Conversely, the defendant has the right to defend themselves against the plaintiff’s claims. They can argue that they did not cause harm or injury, that the plaintiff is not entitled to compensation, or that the plaintiff’s claim is legally invalid.

Generally, How Do Lawsuits Work?

Federal Court or State Court?

Because we are a personal injury law firm, this article is geared toward negligence claims. Of course, consider small claims court for smaller cases with lower damages. We have an article here about that. But when there is a serious case, sometimes you will need to bring your case in federal court, including cases of cruise ship accidents, police shootings, and more. Generally, I wouldn’t say I like federal court as it requires unanimous juries, and California also applies civil rights laws to its state laws pretty even-handedly.

Whether to file a California negligence claim in federal or state court depends on several factors, including the nature of the case, the parties involved, and the amount of controversy.

Here are some additional factors to consider in a legal dispute:

  1. Diversity Jurisdiction: Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases that involve citizens of different states and an amount in controversy of $75,000 or more. If your case meets these requirements, you may have the option to file in federal court.
  2. Federal Claims: If your negligence claim involves a federal law or regulation, you may need to file in federal court. For example, if your claim involves a violation of federal employment discrimination laws, you would need to file in federal court.
  3. State Law Claims: If your negligence claim involves only state law claims, you may be able to file in state court. In general, state courts are more familiar with state law and procedures, which can be an advantage in some cases.
  4. Jury Pool: Depending on the location of the court, the jury pool may be more favorable in one court over the other. It is important to consider the potential jurors in both federal and state court and their potential biases.
  5. Time and Cost: Federal court cases can take longer and cost more than state court cases. Considering the time and cost implications of filing in federal court is important.

Ultimately, the decision to file a California negligence claim in federal or state court should be made in consultation with an experienced attorney. An attorney can evaluate the specific facts of your case and advise you on the best course of action.

At Ehline Law Firm, our experienced personal injury attorneys have a proven track record of success in both state and federal court. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about your legal options.

The legal process of a lawsuit typically involves several stages.

Brief overview of the civil lawsuit stages

  1. Pleadings: This is the first stage of a lawsuit, where the plaintiff files a complaint in court, outlining their legal claims against the defendant. The defendant then files an answer, responding to the plaintiff’s claims and asserting any defenses they may have.
  2. Discovery: This is the stage where both parties gather evidence to support their claims. Discovery can involve a variety of methods, such as depositions, interrogatories, requests for documents, and more.
  3. Pretrial Motions: Before a trial, both parties may file various pretrial motions, such as motions to dismiss or motions for summary judgment. These motions seek to resolve the case without a trial based on legal arguments and evidence.
  4. Trial: If the case proceeds to trial, both parties present their evidence and arguments to a judge or jury. The judge or jury then decides the case based on the evidence presented.
  5. Appeal: If one party is dissatisfied with the outcome of the trial, they may appeal the decision to a higher court.

What Should You Know Before Filing a Lawsuit?

Before filing a lawsuit, there are several things that you need to consider. Here are some essential factors to keep in mind:

  1. The Statute of Limitations: Each state has a statute of limitations for different types of legal claims. A federal court will generally apply state law on this issue. The statute of limitations is the time limit within which a lawsuit must be filed. If you miss the deadline, you may lose your right to sue. It is essential to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to determine the applicable statute of limitations for your case.
  2. The Strength of Your Case: It is essential to have a strong legal case before filing a lawsuit. Your attorney can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case and advise you on the best course of action.
  3. The Costs of Litigation: Lawsuits can be expensive, and the costs can add up quickly. Before deciding to pursue a lawsuit, you should clearly understand the costs involved, including attorney fees, court fees, and other expenses.
  4. The Risks of Litigation: Litigation can be unpredictable, and there is no guarantee of success. Even if you have a strong case, there is still a chance that you may lose. Your attorney can help you assess the risks and benefits of litigation and advise you on the best course of action.
  5. Alternative Dispute Resolution: Before filing a lawsuit, you should consider alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or arbitration. These methods can be less expensive and time-consuming than litigation, often resulting in a mutually agreeable resolution.
  6. The Role of Your Attorney: Choosing an experienced attorney who can guide you through the legal process and advocate for your rights is essential. Your attorney can help you evaluate your case, negotiate a settlement, and represent you in court if necessary.

If you are considering filing a civil lawsuit, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Ehline Law Firm. We have a proven track record of success in handling a wide range of legal disputes and can help you navigate the legal process and advocate for your rights.

Personal Injury Lawsuits?

For purposes of personal injury claims, a lawsuit is usually a formal written complaint to the court that generally alleges negligence and other causes of action. Sometimes the prayer for relief may ask for punitive damages on top of pain, suffering, and lost contracts/wages.

It is filed with the court and served on each defendant within a specified period of time. Usually, a process server will serve it on behalf of the personal injury plaintiff. Assuming all the elements of negligence are present, you still face several procedural and substantive tests before you can prove your burden. Next, the defendant will either answer, file a demurrer, or file a motion for summary judgment (“MSJ”.)

Steps to a Jury Trial

If the civil case is allowed to proceed, then we move on to the next steps in litigation, such as discovery, settlement conferences, pre-trial motions, and jury selection. A good injury attorney will try and avoid filing a lawsuit as the filing fees and litigation expenses are normally passed on to the private party plaintiff, win, or lose. If so, the prevailing party may still need to enforce the court order with additional motions in these civil cases.

And this is a reason why you should make the best efforts to protect your injury claim well in advance. For example, you should take an ambulance to the hospital and make a record of the event with the doctor. And you should also get information from law enforcement officers responding to the scene of the incident. As you can see, to make sure defendants are held responsible in a civil action, relevant steps must be followed.

No matter how much AI you rely on, it will be the skill, personality, and tenacity of the law firm you hire that wins or loses your matter handily. The same applies to a case against the government, like Caltrans, a class action lawsuit, or any other mass tort. The lawyer is the final factor in winning or losing big in an often complicated civil case.

Importance of Physical Evidence to Keep a Case Alive?

Don’t forget to snap pictures of the crash site, for example, if it is a car or motorcycle crash. (More tips here). We want to hear from you if you need a lawyer to listen to your case and see if you have a viable lawsuit. Ehline’s talented and sociable staff of lawyers, paralegals, law clerks, and expert witnesses are the go-to lawyers for your case. To learn more about Ehline Law’s local injury law firm or to speak with a zealous advocate, use our online contact form, or call our local Los Angeles offices right now at (213) 596-9642


A lawsuit is a legal action initiated by one party against another to seek a resolution to a dispute or wrong that has been committed. The legal process of a lawsuit can be complex, and it is essential to have an experienced attorney by your side to guide you through it. Before filing a lawsuit, it is important to consider the applicable statute of limitations, the strength of your case, the costs and risks of litigation, alternative dispute resolution methods, and your attorney’s role.

If your Los Angeles personal injury attorney fails to file the complaint within the applicable statutory period can mean a dismissal by the court with prejudice. Failure to lodge the complaint in the correct jurisdiction and venue can result in a dismissal without prejudice if there is time to re-file the complaint in the proper court of “original jurisdiction.”

Do you need to speak with a lawyer? Ehline Law Firm has locations and meeting places in Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Francisco County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County, and San Diego County, California. Let us Help You Win Money for You Severe Injury claims in the Golden State. We also have an online contact us form if you wish to receive a free virtual consultation online or a return call later.

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients.
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Michael Ehline

Top Injury lawyer, Michael Ehline, Esq.
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