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How to File a Civil Lawsuit in Arizona

Updated: February 2, 2023

Est. Reading: 7 minutes

If you're currently embroiled in a legal battle in the state of Arizona and you need to sue someone, there are several different types of courts available to you. Depending on the number of damages and where the individual or business lives or works, you can usually choose between filing in small-claim (municipal) courts, justice courts, peace courts, or federal courts.

These courts have different levels of jurisdiction. Do not expect to go straight to the Supreme Court with your case. Choosing the correct court is imperative because choosing the wrong one could lead to your case being thrown out. Each state has slightly different laws regarding how to file a civil lawsuit, but the general steps to take are basically the same.

Contact an experienced Glendale civil litigation attorney today to help with your case! Call Monahan Law at (623) 300-2727

What is the Civil Lawsuit Process?

Civil law deals with disputes between people, companies, corporations, and partnerships. If there is a dispute between two people regarding property damage, personal injury, a contract/breach of a contract, or a debt collection, then these disputes are resolved through a civil lawsuit. Civil laws handle issues between individuals and business entities.

a form to file a lawsuit and pen on a desk

These are the general steps in the process of a civil lawsuit:

  1. A complaint is filed by a person (original party) who has been injured by another person. It states the reason for filing the lawsuit and asks the court to grant relief. Claims action against yourself.
  2. You the original party need to specify if the dispute falls under the terms of an agreement to arbitrate.
  3. A copy of the lawsuit and a notice of service are sent to (sent to) the defendant.
  4. A defendant must respond within a basic time of 20 days by filing an answer admitting or disputing the allegations in the plaintiff’s pleading.
  5. The plaintiff and the defendants discuss the case. It's called discovery.
  6. A trial takes place in front of a judge or a trial by jury. Jury trials are usually public but the deliberations are private.
  7. A court decides whether someone has committed a crime based on the testimony and the other facts presented at trial. The Judge can make a default judgment on the plaintiff (business entity). This usually happens when a party fails to appear for the proceeding time of the case. The case will continue without the non-appearing party.
  8. If the loser appeals the decision to the next lower level of the courts, then they must go through the entire legal system again. The person will get a notice of appeal form. Appeals can go to the Supreme Court.

Of course, this outline is just an overview and many civil cases don't actually go to court. There are certain rules that must be followed when using these techniques. To sue someone, the plaintiff must include certain information in the lawsuit. A complaint is a legal pleading filed by one party against another party in which the plaintiff claims that the latter has committed a wrong against him/her. You can add your email address for contact.

Drafting Your Complaint

Start by finding a federal court form to fill out. You (a real party) can usually find forms online that you can fill out if you need one. If you're filing a class action suit, you might be able to find a template you can download from the court system. You need to read the court's procedural guidelines before filing a lawsuit.

If you don't understand them, you could lose your case. The justice court clerks can help you if you have a legal claim. The justice court clerks are not attorneys. Even though you don't have any legal training, the court still holds lawyers to the same standards as non-lawyers, expecting them to know and abide by those rules.

You need to create the caption or title for your complaint. It identifies the case in the courtroom. Have copies of your documents. Every time you file a new case, the same caption will appear at the top of the front cover of each pleading. You're suing because you filed the suit. You're filing a lawsuit against someone who is the defendant.

The caption also includes the court's file number, but you won't receive it until you file your complaint at the courthouse. Identify yourself and the person you’re filing against. Briefly explain why you’re filing suit. Explain who you are and why you’re doing so. Make sure you spell their full legal name correctly when naming them.

lawyer showing paperwork to their client

Your claim is based on the law that states that if you meet certain requirements, you're entitled to compensation for damages. Each requirement you need to prove to be successful in court is called an "element" of your claim. You can use these elements as an example for your complaint. Each paragraph must contain only one assertion or fact, allowing the accused to answer each separately and state whether he admits or denies it.

You need to describe your injuries. Have pictures of the damages. If you're seeking compensation from someone else, you should specify an exact dollar figure along with a short description of why you think that sum would cover your losses. You need to file your lawsuit in the right place. Find out where to go for help. Ask someone who works at the courthouse. Have a great disclosure statement.

Filing Your Complaint

There are many formal rules for filing your complaint. You must sign your documents before submitting them to the court. Depending on the court where you file your case, you may need to sign your document in the courtroom or in front of a judge.

You need to fill out your Sum­mons form. It tells the courts how you're delivering a copy of the com­plaint to the defen­dant, and gen­erally needs to be filled out on the same day you filed your com­plaint and initiated the serv­ice pro­cess. Regardless of whether you file a personal injury suit, an employment discrimination case, or a medical malpractice claim, the clerk will have a form for you to fill out.

Each court has its own forms, but they usually look similar. Make sure you use the correct one for the court where you plan to file your suit. You need to sign and date the document on the same day you expect it to be delivered to the defendant.

Patrick Monahan diligently working on a case

You need to make sure you keep extra copies of everything you send out. Once you're done sending out your documents, make sure you save them somewhere safe. Then, when you get back from court, you need to make sure you have a copy of everything you sent out.

You'll need additional copies if you're suing more than just one person or company. Bring your documents to the courthouse. The plaintiff's court costs can vary and the court may award the plaintiff court costs. You'll be able to file them for free if you pay the required filing fee. Filing fees vary depending on the case. Filing fees can be as low as $52.

Proceeding With Litigation

Answer any counterclaims made by the defendants. If they answer your suit, they might include claims against you too. You have a reasonable time of 20 calendar days of filing your lawsuit. You may be able to obtain a default judgment by court order if you don't receive an appropriate response from the defendant within that time period.

You need to participate in the litigation process by exchanging extra copies of documents and asking each other about relevant legal and factual issues. A list of witness questions will help you. This is also known as discovery. Justice court cases do not have discovery. They just go straight to trial. You must disclose all exhibits or documents you intend to introduce at trial, as well as any witnesses you intend to call.

You might consider using alternative dispute settlement methods such as mediation or arbitration. A neutral third party could help you and the defendant reach an agreement on your case without having to go through a court hearing. If you're concerned about costs, there may be an affordable community mediation service nearby that you could utilize.

an attorney reviewing a civil litigation claim

You may also want to ask the clerk of court or visit the court's website for information on what services they offer. If you're filing a lawsuit in state court and the total amount of damages in your case doesn't exceed a claim amount of $50,000 under Arizona state laws, then your case must be arbitrated before going to court. Arbitration is similar to a non-jury trial, but with less strict procedures and relaxed evidentiary standards.

You may be able to settle your case out of court if you and the defendant cannot agree on an amicable settlement. You don't have the legal rights to a trial by jury for a small claims case.

What is the Arbitration Process in a Civil Lawsuit?

The court's level of jurisdiction will choose an arbitration member from a list of local lawyers to hear over the case.  If either party strikes the appointed arbitrator, then another will be selected. The date for the arbitration hearing should be set within the limited time of 60 to 120 ​days after the appointment of the arbitrator. The arbitrator will listen to both parties' arguments and then decide which side has the stronger case. They will then rule on the case within 10 business days of the arbitration hearing.

If any person is dissatisfied with the arbitration award, they have 20 days from the date of the initial filing of the final arbitration decision to appeal. This is a very limited time to file for the arbitration award.

If an appeal is made, the case goes back to the judge who will schedule another hearing for an arbitration award. If the losing side appeals an arbitration award, they must get a result that is 23% better than the original ruling.

Monahan Law Firm will help you with civil lawsuit matters. Their number is (623) 300-2727 for a consultation.

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Attorney Patrick Monahan

Patrick Monahan

Patrick Monahan is the managing partner of Monahan Law Firm, PLC. Patrick began his legal career practicing real estate, construction, and general business litigation.
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