If you have a lawsuit, you should know what to do.

The law doesn’t provide a remedy for every type of harm or injustice, even if you believe someone else is responsible.You have to learn if you have a lawsuit before you decide to file one.If you find out that you do, you need to analyze the strength of your case and determine if the person you want to file a lawsuit against will be able to pay you if you win.Even if you have a strong case, you might consider other ways to resolve the dispute to avoid the stress of a lawsuit.

Step 1: You can learn the elements of your claim

What you must prove to win your case are the basic elements of your claim.The claims are broken down into components.To put together a good case, you need proof of each component.If you hire a contractor to complete home repairs and he doesn’t complete them according to the contract, you may want to file a lawsuit against him.You need to be able to prove that a valid contract existed and that you held up your end of the bargain, but the other party did not.The amount of damages you claim to have suffered must be proven.There are different elements to personal injury cases.If you want to file a lawsuit, you have to show that the person was negligent, his or her carelessness caused your injury, and the injury resulted in compensable damages such as medical bills or lost wages.There are other elements involved.You have to show that the person you’re suing had a duty to act in a certain way.If you were involved in a car accident because another driver ran a red light and failed to stop, you would have to prove that the light was red and the driver had a duty to do so.You might not want to file a lawsuit if you don’t think you’ll be able to prove one of the elements of your claim.It will be difficult to win your case if you can’t prove all elements.If you didn’t have a written contract with your home improvement contractor, it would be hard to prove that a valid contract existed.Since the other elements depend on the existence of a contract, you can’t prove anything else.

Step 2: Do you know the applicable law?

There may be court cases interpreting elements of your claim.If you want to file a lawsuit in that place, make sure you look at the laws there.You may choose to file a lawsuit against the person who lives in the state or county where the incident took place.In the court where you intend to file your case, you might want to find out the outcome of similar cases.Judges have more discretion over their decisions in certain types of cases.Understanding how the judges handle cases like yours is essential to evaluating the viability of your case.You have to check the statute of limitations in your state.You can’t file a lawsuit after the state’s statutes of limitations have ended.

Step 3: Understand the burden of evidence.

You need to be able to prove each part of your claim is true.The burden of proof in civil cases is called aponderance of the evidence.You may be familiar with the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal cases.You only have to prove that your version of the story is true.If the person you’re suing has an affirmative defense, the burden of proof shifts to him or her.In some cases, the burden may shift to the defendants to prove that the defense applies, and then back to you to show other conditions or facts.The burden of proof is shifted to the defendants when there are built-in presumptions of evidence.The law presumes that an accident is due to carelessness on the part of the driver.The driver who hit you has to prove that his actions weren’t negligent or that they were excused in some way.

Step 4: Evaluate your evidence.

Solid evidence for each of the elements of your claim will make you more likely to prevail in a lawsuit.Keep in mind that your evidence must include not only documents or information you have with you at the moment, but also evidence that you would be likely to acquire through the discovery process, when parties to a lawsuit share information related to the claim.If you slip and fall in a restaurant and want to file a lawsuit against the owner, you have to prove that the restaurant was negligent in keeping the floor clear.If you sued the restaurant owner, he or she would have to provide documentation of maintenance policies, including schedules of when the floor was cleaned by employees and how often that was done.

Step 5: The ability to pay is assessed.

It might not make sense to file a lawsuit if you can’t collect damages when you win.The court won’t do that for you if you win your lawsuit.If you want to enforce your judgment, you have to file additional forms with the court and use collection procedures such as garnishment.Even if you don’t have all the information you need to make a decision, you will be able to get a rough understanding.If you are injured in an auto accident and the other driver is insured, his or her insurance company will cover the claim.

Step 6: Send a letter demanding something.

If you want to file a lawsuit, make an attempt to settle your claim with the person.People would rather settle a dispute than go to court.A lawsuit takes a lot of time and money.You may be able to work something out if the person understands his or her fault.Use a standard business format to type your demand letter.Ask for a specific resolution and recount a brief history of the facts that led to the dispute.If you’re asking for a specific amount of money, you should explain how you calculated it.The amount of expenses you incurred as a result of the dispute can be proved by attaching bills or other documents.Give the person to whom you’re writing the letter a specific deadline by which to respond, and explain that if you aren’t able to come to a resolution you will be filing a lawsuit.

Step 7: If you want to use a mediation or binding arbitration, you must use it.

Alternative dispute resolution can be more cost-effective and quicker to resolve than a lawsuit.A judge or jury in a courtroom would make a decision regarding who’s right, in the same way that an arbitrator would hear both sides of the story.The rules of evidence and procedure are more relaxed and the process is quicker than a trial.A neutral third party will facilitate a discussion between you and the other party to find a solution to the dispute.If your claim involves a breach of contract, you should review the contract to see if it has an arbitration clause.Before filing a lawsuit, parties must submit their disputes to a neutral arbiter.Some courts require that you participate in mediation before you go ahead with a trial.You could save court costs if you suggest mediation before you file your lawsuit.

Step 8: Negotiating a settlement.

Keep in mind the costs of filing and litigating a lawsuit when you decide what to accept to settle your claim.Most cases filed in the U.S. courts are settled out of court.After all attempts to settle have failed, you should consider filing a lawsuit.Take a look at your additional demand and offer to reduce it by 20 percent or so.This shows the cost to you in terms of time and money when you file a lawsuit.You should consider how strong your case is, and whether the person you intend to file a lawsuit against has a valid defense.Your case’s value will be affected by those two things.You have an idea of how your case might be valued by a judge if you look at similar cases filed in the court where you plan to sue.If you are patient and confident, you will be able to negotiate with patience and confidence.Don’t be afraid to ask for the amount of money you’re entitled to, and avoid giving in to low-ball offers.

Step 9: Look for someone who knows what they’re talking about.

If you’re going to talk to an attorney, make sure you speak to someone with experience and expertise in the type of claim you have.If you know anyone who has had experience with similar claims, you might ask them.They could use an attorney that they could recommend.The website of your local bar association is a good place to find an attorney.You can search by practice area in many of the directories.Before you schedule an interview with that attorney, make sure you research his or her practice and experience thoroughly.

Step 10: Prepare for the interviews with your attorney.

Make sure you have copies of any documents you give to the attorneys so they can assess your claim.Many attorneys will give at least one free consultation, but this may be more of a sales pitch for the attorney than a legitimate assessment of your case.List the questions you want to ask the attorney.You should ask questions about how the attorney interacts with clients and other conditions of his or her practice.Depending on your preferences, what other questions you ask attorneys will be different.If you want a hands-on attorney who will communicate with you frequently, you should find out how often the attorney contacts clients and whether he or she relies on junior attorneys or paralegals to do most of the work.

Step 11: Interview more than one attorney

You can compare and choose the representation that best suits you, your goals and your budget by talking to more than one attorney.If you want to hire that attorney, keep your other appointments, even if you go to one interview and are impressed with him or her.If you live in a rural area, you may not be able to interview at least three attorneys.

Step 12: Determine your ability to pay for legal services.

Depending on how much you’re willing to spend, you can either hire an attorney or choose unbundled services.If you win, you may be able to recover your legal fees, but you will have to pay some costs out of pocket.If you want to represent yourself, you may be able to have an attorney look over your documents before you file them, or help you prepare for trial.