Most civil lawsuits follow the same timeline and structure, and that includes various pleadings along the way. Pleadings are the first explanation that lets lawyers explain the client’s position. These written documents should be strong enough to make your client’s position clear. At LJ Law Group, our attorneys take the time to go over your pleading documents to help you better understand the trial process.

Keep reading to learn more about the most common pleadings filed in civil lawsuits.

What’s a Pleading?

A pleading is a formal written document filed with the court as part of your civil lawsuit. They are part of the case file, which means they are a public record unless they’re sealed by a court order. In essence, pleadings are every legal document filed in a lawsuit. Pleadings must be concrete, logical, clear, and well-organized, which is why seeking legal advice from an experienced attorney is critical.

Types of Pleadings

The rules of jurisdiction determine the different types of pleadings. These are some of the most common types of pleadings in civil lawsuits. It’s important to have an overall understanding of these pleadings, which will give you a better idea of the case’s timeline.

Complaint

Every lawsuit begins when a plaintiff files a complaint against a defendant. This complaint, also known as a petition, is basically a written statement outlining the plaintiff’s case. Here, the plaintiff states their version of the facts and asks the court to order some kind of relief, often money damages as compensation for a loss.

Answer

This document follows the complaint, and it’s the defendant’s written response to it. Here, the defendant responds to the facts and allegations in the complaint. This is the defendant’s opportunity to plead an affirmative defense, which includes anything that would excuse the defendant’s liability. It’s extremely important to work with an attorney to write your answer plead, as this is your opportunity to state your version of the facts you’re being accused of.

Counterclaim

When the defendant asserts their own harm as part of the same incident that gave rise to the lawsuit, the defendant can then file a counterclaim against the plaintiff. This is common for damages resulting from a car accident, for example. If you believe the plaintiff is at fault for the accident, thus they’re responsible for your injuries, you could file a counterclaim against them.

Cross-claim

A cross-claim is made by either party, to change or expand the information provided in the original pleading document. In this case, an amended complaint will be filed to include allegations not included in the original document, for example.

Entering a Plea

The defendant makes the decision of which plea to enter. It’s always best to have an attorney before and when entering a plea to make sure the lawyer looks at all aspects of the case. Whether you decide to plead guilty, not guilty, or even refusing to plead, working alongside an experienced attorney will help you figure out the best route to guarantee the best possible outcome for your case.

Questions to Ask Your Attorney?

During your consultation with your attorney, you want to come prepared with a set of questions that will help you understand more about your pleadings. Some questions to ask your attorney include:

  • What happens if I ignore a complaint?
  • What type of pleading should I file based on my case?
  • How do I know the best format for my plea?
  • How do I know I have enough evidence for a counterclaim?

At LJ Law Group, our attorneys always recommend scheduling a complimentary private consultation instead of attempting to file a plea on your own. While it’s true, these documents can be accessed online and that there are many templates you can use from home to draft a trial pleading, having the support and guidance of an attorney can make a significant difference.