Jefferson County, Texas Trial Begins
In Jefferson County, a case filed in December of 2011 went to trial on December 3, 2013. Plaintiff Snookie Spurlock hopes to win compensation from defendant Keaton Baker for a car accident that Ms. Spurlock believes Mr. Baker caused. Car accidents and personal injuries occur every day in Dallas, Lubbock, Wichita Falls, Beaumont and all throughout Texas.
But what actually happens when an injured person decides to bring a claim in Texas?
Anatomy of a Civil Lawsuit
Most people get their knowledge about what goes on in the courtroom from exciting and dramatic crime shows on television. However, they are not always accurate. Before engaging in your own lawsuit, it is important to know some basic courtroom players and practices. In this post, we will discuss courts, plaintiffs, defendants, and the complaint.
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There are many different types of “courts.” Except in very small towns, one judge does not preside over many different types of cases. For example, there are courtrooms devoted to just criminal law. Criminal law is probably what most people think of when they think of the law. In criminal courts, prosecutors attempt to prove that one who was charged with a crime, the defendant, is guilty of that crime and should be punished. Private citizens cannot use the criminal courts to bring a lawsuit. Instead, they have to go to what is known as a civil court.
A person or entity brings a civil case. Most personal injury lawsuits are brought by or on behalf of an individual. The person bringing the lawsuit is called the “plaintiff.” The person or entity that the plaintiff sues is called the “defendant.” There can be more than one plaintiff and more than one defendant in a given lawsuit. Additionally, there can be more than one claim in a lawsuit.
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For example, let’s say a married couple, Sam and Megan, are in a car accident caused by Tara. Sam sustains serious injuries and, sadly, Megan passes away. Sam, as a plaintiff, can sue Tara, a defendant, for personal injuries to him and for the wrongful death of his wife. Even though there are two different issues, Sam need only, and should only, bring one lawsuit. It can get complicated to know how many claims to bring, or if there are claims that need to be brought separately. That is one of the many times having a skilled and experienced attorney working for you is invaluable.
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Once you and your attorney have determined which claims to bring and the identities of the plaintiffs and defendants, your attorney will write and file a “Complaint.” This complaint begins the process of your lawsuit. It is possible to amend your complaint to allege new facts, claims, or to add defendants or plaintiffs, but it is important to be as thorough and complete in your first Complaint as possible. This is only the first step in a lawsuit. We will discuss the next steps in subsequent posts.