How to File a Civil Lawsuit in Illinois

People who wish to seek restitution for a wrongful act can do so by filing a civil lawsuit. A civil lawsuit is meant to resolve disputes between individuals and/or organizations. The defendant in a civil lawsuit in Illinois can sue someone to request a monetary penalty or to perform a specific action such as a divorce or an eviction.

What Is a Civil Lawsuit?

People file civil lawsuits against businesses and other individuals in order to settle cases of alleged wrongdoing. Civil cases are not criminal cases and aren't meant to replace criminal proceedings. An example of a civil case is someone who was in a car accident and sues the person who caused the accident to cover medical bills and compensate for pain and suffering.

Another reason for filing a civil suit in Illinois is when a landlord wants to evict a tenant. Child custody cases, divorce, consumer complaints, contract and property disputes are also examples of civil cases.

Filing a Civil Suit in Illinois

Anyone wishing to sue someone in Illinois can pay a filing fee and request the appropriate paperwork from the office of the circuit court. The amount of the filing fee depends on the type of lawsuit. After paying the fee, the plaintiff can fill out the complaint. They'll need to include the name and address of the person or business they're suing and will have to include the details of the complaint, including dates, times, locations and other specifics.

If there is a contract or other paperwork to provide as proof, the clerk will attach it to the complaint. The plaintiff will have to swear that the complaint is true and have it signed by a notary public.

Appearing in Court Without an Attorney

Attorneys aren't necessary in civil proceedings and anyone who wishes can represent themselves pro se. People who are representing themselves in court are expected to understand how the law works and how to proceed in accordance with statutes and court rules. No one who works in the courts, including the judge, is allowed to provide legal advice to plaintiffs or defendants.

However, the defendant has a right to hire an attorney even if the plaintiff is acting pro se. People who are acting pro se are responsible for handling their own due diligence and have to bring in witnesses and evidence on their own.

After filing, the clerk will provide the plaintiff with a summons. It's the plaintiff's responsibility to deliver the summons to the defendant. If the plaintiff is working with an attorney, the attorney will handle the complaint and summons. A plaintiff who is representing himself can request summons delivery from the sheriff's office but will have to pay a fee. The plaintiff can't deliver a summons on their own.

Types of Civil Courts

The type of court that is hearing the case depends on the requested amount of damages. If the plaintiff is seeking $10,000 or less, it’s a case for small claims court in Illinois. Small claims court is only for those seeking monetary compensation and not asking the court for a specific remedy.

Cases requesting damages of $10,000 to $50,000 are law magistrate cases, while a law case is for amounts of $50,000 or more. Other civil cases include divorce, child support, orders of protection, evictions and foreclosures. A court date, usually within 30 to 40 days, is set at the time of filing.

Read More: What Is Civil Court?

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