Are you unsure if you have a case in Arizona? Read this article about determining if you have a case and the steps to follow, then call us.
Stages of a Civil Case
We have hundreds and hundreds of clients that we represent, and they often ask this question, particularly about civil cases that we represent: “What are the stages of my civil case? How is this thing going to progress through court?” Truth be told, this can be a very scary process. When you go downtown to the courthouse, they’re a whole lot bigger than any mock trial we could guide you through. Federal courts are a whole lot bigger than that, even, and people want to know, “What can I expect through the stages of my case? How is it going to go?”
These are rules that mark and demark the stages that your case has to go through. There are so many different variations, but broadly speaking what happens with your case is, one, first of all, you must file a timely lawsuit. You have to pay attention to the statute of limitations on your case. A statute of limitation is a fancy legal way of saying you only have a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit regarding what you feel has happened to you in violation of the law. If you let that statute of limitation run, it is a bar to filing that lawsuit; the court won’t even accept jurisdiction of it because the lawsuit would be considered untimely.
After you file a timely lawsuit, then you have to serve that complaint. Particularly in Arizona, you have to serve that complaint within 90 days of filing the lawsuit. If it’s a family law matter like a divorce, you generally have 120 days to file it. This is going to be different depending on what court you are in and what jurisdiction you are in. You’re going to have a certain amount of time to serve that complaint. Serving that complaint has to be served in accordance to the rules. Sometimes, it takes a process server. Sometimes, you can send it certified mail. You’re going to need to talk with an attorney so that you know how that complaint needs to be served.
There is then an answer filed to that complaint, or a response to a petition. Whoever that you’re suing, they get a certain amount of time to respond to it. For example, in Arizona, generally, if you’re served with your complaint in state, you’ve got 20 days to respond to it. If you’re served out of state, you have 30 days to respond to it. If you sign this little paper that we call a waiver of service, so they don’t have to go through the expense of hiring a process server, then the state will give you 60 days to respond to the complaint, so it could vary depending on how and where you were served or if you waived service. The complaint has to be served and you have to respond to it within the specified time frame. If you don’t, that’s when that bad D-word comes up – default. The party that’s suing could file a default against you and get what they asked for, if you don’t respond to the default.
There are other things that happen in the process. You can petition to remove the complaint to another court. For instance, if we file a civil rights action under the Federal Constitution in state court, we could request it be removed to federal court. That’s all a process that your attorney is going to have to deal with – and that’s why you need to talk to a lawyer. One of the big mistakes we see folks make that feel like they have a case is they think they can do it on their own. We’ve been to school for a number of years. We’ve spent hours training and reviewing law. This is not something you should try to do on your own. You need a lawyer to talk to. You need to find the best lawyer for you because after you get this thing filed, then you enter into what we call discovery, where you’re submitting evidence and deposing people. This is all before you get to trial, so there’s quite a lengthy process.
How long is this going to take? It depends on your case. It depends on how you schedule things out to be done. You need to talk with your lawyer to discuss all of these things because there are things that can be taken into consideration – your family, resources, all of that stuff. You need to talk to a good lawyer. You can call our office. You’re more than welcome to speak with us about your case and, should we become the counsel of record for you, obviously we’ll go over all these things with you. It’s always important to start out on the right foot, to get things going in the right way up front, so that you can get the best possible outcome in the future. Call a good lawyer and let’s get your case on the road.
Do I Have a Case?
At Smith and Green, we are a multi-jurisdictional practice located in the city of Phoenix, Arizona, that practices in several different areas of law. One of the things we are asked often is, “Do I have a case?” That seems to be the common question. Of course, coming into court and suing somebody can be a great ordeal. It can be a very time-consuming thing, a very expensive thing, and certainly a very emotional thing; it takes a toll on your mind, on your emotions, on your family, on your resources. It’s only natural to ask, “Do I have a case?”
That’s a big question. Most lawyers like answering that question because there could be so many answers. There are a number of things we look at when answering that question of do you have a case or not. First of all, what are the claims? What are they? What are you suing about? Is there a genuine or material claim that can be filed with the court? Are they frivolous? Are you just mad? Was what happened to you illegal, or was it just unfair? Because you do understand there’s a great deal of difference between unfair and illegal. Is this something that the law can support? Is there an actual cause of action? That’s the number one question that you want to be able to answer.
Second, is the court that you’re trying to file this thing in— is it going to have jurisdiction, be it one of the federal courts or the state court, a tribal court if you are on tribal lands? Is this going to be filed in justice court or the municipal court? Is there going to be jurisdiction over the persons that you’re trying to sue, the entities that you’re trying to sue and over the subject matter of what you’re trying to sue? Can the court have jurisdiction over that? Has any time lapsed in that? Of course, there are also statutes of limitations. You have to answer that third question – is this lawsuit timely? “My car got ran into 15 years ago, I think I want to sue them now.” It’s probably outside of the statute of limitation, so all of those are considerations that must be taken into place when you’re determining to sue or not to sue.
Is there evidence to support my suit, my claim, my cause of action? Do I have enough circumstantial evidence or direct evidence? Circumstantial evidence is the kind of thing that, if you put it all together, can prove your case. Direct evidence is like the smoking gun – witnesses that were actual witnesses that were there.
Another important question in determining whether you have a case or not is the damages. Were there damages? “They ran into my car, but I didn’t get hurt.” The insurance company fixed your car, but you want to sue them because they ran into you and you want a million dollars. Wait a minute, but what are the damages? You have to ask yourself that. Were you injured? Did you go to the doctor? Did you have to have a surgery? Did you lose an eye or a limb? These are all questions that must be answered when you’re determining whether or not you have a case.
One big question that must be answered in determining “whether you have a case or not” is, “Can I be successful in court on this?” There are times when you do have a claim, you were treated in a manner that’s inconsistent with prevailing laws, you do have some evidence that could support it, but the question is can you be successful given all of the elements that need to be proven and all of the factors that weigh into whether to file a lawsuit against someone or not. One of those factors is the costs that are associated with filing a lawsuit. Depending on what kind of lawsuit that you’re contemplating filing, the cost can be great. A medical malpractice case – you have to bring in experts in that area, in that field, to determine whether this doctor or this dentist or whomever has deviated from the standard of care that is expected. This can be a very expensive undertaking. How many people are going to have to be deposed in this case? Are we going to have to hire a private investigator? What are the manpower hours that the law team is going to have to put into the case to make sure that all of the claims are vetted properly and presented properly?
Consider, too, the cost benefit analysis. This is how much money it’s going to take me to file this lawsuit. If you’re suing somebody for a $1,500 scratch on your new Maserati but it’s going to take you $20,000 in experts and depositions and all of that, do you really want to spend $20,000 to get $1,500? That is a process that you should go through with the lawyer that you pick of your choice. You need a lawyer that’s going to be open and honest with you and discuss these things with you. You want to contact an experienced attorney.
You can contact our office. We’d be glad to talk to you about your case and determine, do we sue on this case? Do you have a case, or do you not have a case? If you do have a case, should you sue or should you not sue? Call our office or call some other competent attorney that will have an honest and open conversation with you about what it is that you are contemplating about filing a lawsuit about so that you can get the best outcome and the best results for what you feel needs to be addressed in court.
Have you or a loved one been involved in a criminal defense claim and have questions about determining if you have a case in Arizona? Contact experienced Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorneys at Smith & Green today for a legal consultation.
Like Us on Facebook