When you file a complaint, you are officially giving notice to the courts (and the other parties you name in your claim) about your lawsuit. In many cases, the other side already knows you intend to file a claim, but this is their official notice that you’ve done so. Georgia requires that you “serve” a copy of the complaint to the parties named in the lawsuit, as they need to be aware of it in order to respond to it.
What information does a complaint include?
Your complaint is basically an outline of everything you are alleging in your lawsuit. It must include:
- Key identifying information about which court you’re submitting to, which county in Georgia (which will usually be where the injury happened), the names and identifying information of the defendants (the parties you are suing), your own name and that of any other co-plaintiffs (other people who are on your side of the lawsuit), and a case number if there is one. You’ll also include a title for your complaint. All of this information needs to be formatted correctly or you risk getting the case dismissed, which is one reason it helps to hire a lawyer. However, it is possible to submit it yourself as long as you are careful to research the correct format.
- A description of what you claim happened. This needs to establish each of the “elements” (facts) that are required to prove your specific type of case. For example, if you are filing a premises liability claim against a property owner, you will need to not only show that you were injured on the property, but also establish why the property owner had a duty of care toward you. Give each fact, circumstance or idea its own paragraph, and number them.
- The kind of damages you are demanding. Damages or “relief” refer to the things you can recover money for, including injuries, property damage, pain and suffering, etc. In general, you cannot win any kind of damages you do not ask for in the complaint, so put in everything that you legally have a right to, based on what happened in your case.
When filing a complaint, it’s important to be specific. You need to clearly outline everything you’re alleging happened, and everything you’re asking for in your suit. For example, if you and your child were in a car accident, but your complaint doesn’t mention any of the injuries to your child, it will be difficult to go back later and ask for damages for those injuries—even if they are legitimate. This is because it will look like you are changing your story about what happened.
At the same time, the complaint really is just the “broad strokes” of the case. You don’t have to get into every tiny detail, nor unveil all of your evidence. In fact, it’s good not to get more specific than you have to, because you don’t want to be pigeonholed if new evidence comes to light. There is an art to writing strong complaints, and it’s one of the reasons you should seek out a lawyer who focuses exclusively on personal injury cases—they may have written hundreds of complaints like yours, and they know what works.
How do I file and serve a complaint?
In general, you or your lawyer are responsible for making sure that your complaint is filed with the correct court and served to all parties named in the lawsuit. Most personal injury cases in Georgia will be filed with either your county Superior Court or with the State Court, although there are exceptions.
You will also need to serve the complaint to the defendants it names. Be careful! There are rules for how to serve a complaint, and if the defendant claims they didn’t receive it, you will need to be able to prove you followed these rules. In most cases, you will want to either arrange for the county sheriff’s office to serve the papers, or a certified process server. There is a fee to get papers served.
Get Help with Your Legal Claim
You don’t need to write, file or serve your claim yourself. In fact, your chances of a successful outcome are much stronger if get an experienced lawyer on your side. Let the attorneys of John Foy & Associates help—we offer a FREE consultation, and we charge nothing for our legal services if we do not get you money. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.