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How to Sue Someone in Texas
When you feel that you have been wronged, the first thing that often comes to mind is to sue. Luckily, we have the courts to settle many of our disputes. If we didn't, we would be having duels in the streets!
So if you have decided that you need to sue a Texas resident or business, the question then becomes how do you do it?
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Small Claims Court (Justice Court) vs Civil Court (State Court)
Depending on the amount of money involved, you may be able to sue in small claims court, also known as Justice Court in Texas. Amounts vary by jurisdiction, but generally if the damages you think you deserve are $20,000 or less, including attorney fees, then you can sue in Texassmall claims court.
How Do You Sue Someone in Texas Small Claims Court?
You will have to represent yourself in front of the judge and you will not have a lawyer at your side.
Suing in small claims court usually involves:
1) Identifying the right defendant
2) Determining the amount of your claim
3) Sending a demand letter to the other party
4) Deciding where to file
5) Preparing and filing your complaint with the appropriate court, which is usually the county court.
How Do You Sue Someone in Texas Civil Court?
If the amount you want to sue for is more than $20,000, then you have to sue in civil court and hire an attorney.
Many people want to represent themselves in court, but as Abraham Lincoln said, "He who represents himself has a fool for a client."
The reason is that you have a lot of emotion wrapped up in suing and cannot foresee all of the pitfalls that can happen during a trial. Navigating them when you have money on the line is even trickier.
You also most likely do not understand courtroom protocol (watching epidodes of Perry Mason does not count). You will be up against the defendant's lawyer, someone who has legal experience and knowledge that you do not.
The bottom line is that you must hire a Texas attorney if you want to sue someone outside of small claims court.
At first, your attorney will most likely try to reach a monetary settlement with the other party. If he cannot, then he will guide you, advise you and prosecute your case for you in court. He will be by your side throughout the entire case.
Having the right Texas lawyer makes all the difference between winning your case and losing it.
Why Do People Sue?
To Enforce a Contract
Enforcing a contract is the top reason that many people sue. A contract can be anything from someone agreeing to pay you money for doing a job to buying a home.
If the other person does not abide by the terms of the contract (also known as breaching the contract), then suing is often the only way to enforce the terms and get what is due to you.
To Recover Damages
If someone has hurt you, you can often sue to recover damages (monetary settlement). People sue to recover damages for a variety of reasons.
If you have been injured in a Texas car accident, then you might want to sue the other driver or his insurance company to help pay for your medical bills or lost wages.
If you slip and fall at the front entrance of a store that did not keep the sidewalk free of ice and you are hurt, then you might want to sue the store for damages.
To Enforce Property Rights
People take property ownership seriously, as they should, making suing over property rights a common type of lawsuit.
For example, did someone extend his fence over your property line or are the property boundaries unclear?
Did a storage locker sell your items without telling you?
Was the sale of your home not properly recorded with the appropriate government agency?
Sometimes property disputes can be resolved with a face to face meeting, but often they land in court.
Some Issues to Consider Before You Sue
If you decide that you have no choice but to sue, here are a few things to consider first:
How Solid is Your Case?
For you to be successful when you sue someone, you have to have a cause of action. This means that you must have enough facts - a valid reason - to justify your right to sue to obtain damages.
You may have fallen in a store and gotten hurt, but to win your case, you will have to prove that the store failed in its responsibility to provide for your safety.
Is Suing Really the Only Option?
Have you approached the other person or business to see if you can come to some sort of agreement or settlement without going to court?
Some disputes can be resolved simply by communicating with the other party through a letter, known as a demand letter, outlining what happened and what settlement you are willing to take. Or you can try to come to an understanding through a face to face meeting. After all, most people do not want to be sued.
Of course, a letter or an in person meeting may not do any good. Suing the other person or entity may be the only way to get the damages that you deserve.
Will You Be Able to Collect Damages if You Win?
Large companies are usually worth suing if you have a legitimate cause of action because they have significant resources. If you win your case, you have a good chance of collecting your money.
Texas small businesses and individuals are another matter. They often do not have the financial means to pay damages and may not be worth suing unless you just want some justice without a monetary award.
A lawsuit is not cheap. Before you hire an expensive lawyer, make sure that the person/business you are suing will be able to pay if you win.
Can You Afford a Lawyer?
Most lawyers charge anywhere from $350 to $500 per hour, depending on your location and type of lawsuit. Attorneys are also notorious for charging for every single minute of their time.
As a result, lawyer fees can add up very quickly. If you lose your case, you are on the hook for your attorney's fees.
Contact Us for Help!
If you have been wronged and want to sue but are not sure about how to do it, then it is time to talk to a legal professional who can help.
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