How to File a Civil Suit in Indiana

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Indiana's court system consists of trial courts, appeals courts and the Supreme Court. A criminal or civil case begins at the trial court level. In a civil case, the initial complaint must be filed at the clerk's office in the correct courthouse based on proper jurisdiction. Proper jurisdiction includes personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction is the power of the court over the defendant, while subject matter jurisdiction is the power of the court over the subject matter of the case. Courts classify civil matters as small claims, limited and unlimited cases. Specialized civil courts hear family law and probate cases.

Calculate the claim amount and total damages. A civil complaint for under $6,000 is heard as a small claims case. File a complaint for a claim amount between $6,001 and $10,000 in civil limited. Cases over $10,000 are filed in civil unlimited. Family law and probate cases are filed in family or probate court.

Read More: Definition of Civil Court

Use the amount of the claim to find the correct court according to the subject matter jurisdiction. The Indiana court system includes four types of civil trial courts, including circuit courts, superior courts, county courts and city/town courts. City and town courts handle ordinance violations. The three other courts generally include small claims and limited and unlimited divisions.

Find the correct court according to the county where the action took place. The court must have personal jurisdiction. A business location or defendant's residence address can generally be used to obtain personal jurisdiction. Use the address and ZIP code of where the contract was signed, the agreement was broken or where the defendant lives.

Complete the required court forms for the type of case. Include the legal name of the other party, the exact address and amount of claim. Submit the form online, by fax, mail or in person. Pay the applicable court filing fees or request a fee waiver.

Serve the complaint and summons on the other party, named in the suit. Service of process requires the summons and complaint to be provided to the other party to notify it of the lawsuit. Service of process can be made by a process server or a person 18 years or older who is not a party to the case. See local court rules.

Provide proof of service to the court prior to the trial date. Keep a copy for your own records and take it to court on the trial date. Present the copy to the court if the defendant claims that he was never served the summons and complaint.

Warnings

  • File your claim before the statute of limitations expires. Ask for a continuance well in advance. Your case will be dismissed if you do not show up. The ruling may favor the other party.

Tips

  • Submit the complaint in person and ask the clerk whether it is completed properly. You may be able to have the complaint and summons served by certified mail through the clerk's office, for a nominal fee.