Are you looking to start a civil lawsuit in South East Michigan or want to better understand the general process? Then you’ve come to the right place to find out more about how does a lawsuit work and how do lawsuits work. Review the following basic and easy to understand information so you can determine if you want to move forward and open your case. 

First Steps

A civil court case begins when a person, company, or other entity files a complaint against another. It would help if you worked with your attorney to gather evidence that will help to draft the complaint. The disagreement usually involves one person believing that he or she has been hurt or had rights violated or property damaged by another person.

Civil cases are private disputes between one or more people, businesses, or organizations. There are differences between a civil VS criminal, and this article is addressing civil cases only. The most common types of civil cases are small claims, landlord-tenant, land contract forfeiture, civil infraction (both traffic and non-traffic) and civil damage actions.



Filing A Civil Case

Where you file your case depends on how much money you’re suing or asking for regarding your case. The district court will handle the case if the amount of the claim is for 25,000 dollars or less. When the amount of the claim is more than 25,000 dollars, then the circuit court will handle the case. The case can be filed in the district or circuit court where the incident occurred or in the district or circuit court where the defendant lives.

For disputes involving amounts of 5,500 dollars or less, the plaintiff can choose to file the case with the small claims division of the district court. The defendant can agree to have the case remain in small claims or can request the case be removed to the regular civil division. You cannot have an attorney represent you in the small claims division.



Service of Process

Service of process is when you serve a summons or complaint. Attorneys typically refer to the job of service of process to professional process servers who handle the paperwork. In Michigan, service of process must be completed within 91 days after the complaint was filed. Once service of process on the defendant is completed, the process server completes a proof of service form and returns it to your attorney. The attorney then files the proof of service with the court.




The discovery process that follows means all parties to the lawsuit have an opportunity to explore the issues and determine what evidence the opponent will attempt to use at trial. The attorney will send interrogatories, which are mostly simple questions regarding a person’s background and the reasons why the individual filed a lawsuit. Also, the defendant’s attorney will likely request to obtain testimony in a question-and-answer session, having the attorneys and a court reporter present. Generally, the discovery period takes 180 days to complete.



Case Evaluation

Case evaluation is mandatory for Michigan lawsuits unless the lawsuit settles beforehand. During a case evaluation, a panel of three court-appointed attorneys will hear oral arguments and read written briefs that describe each party’s theory of the lawsuit and damages. The panel will suggest a settlement amount. Both parties have to agree to it for the case to be closed. The Michigan Court Rules prohibit clients from attending case evaluation. You will be informed of the panel’s proposed settlement by your attorney.



Hearing the Case

You may have heard the term jurisdiction but are unsure of what it means. Before a court can get involved in a civil dispute, it must have the authority to settle (or “hear”) the case. The Michigan Constitution and other laws determine which courts can hear which kinds of cases. Michigan courts have jurisdiction over anyone who is living in or present in Michigan when served with a lawsuit.

If you are the one starting the case, you are called the plaintiff, and the person or business you are suing is called the defendant. In most civil cases, the plaintiff is asking for an amount of money to be paid by the defendant.



Will it Go to Trial?

Trials are extremely infrequent in Michigan: approximately 2% of lawsuits proceed to trial. Instead, your lawsuit may and will likely progress through both case evaluation and facilitation. You must be present at the settlement conference, which will take place in the courtroom. The judge will attempt to settle the lawsuit by discussing the lawsuit with both sides and using his or her experience to give advice. If the judge is unable to settle the lawsuit, it will proceed toward trial. This whole lawsuit process may take one to two years to come to a trial, though lawsuits are resolved before trial the majority of the time. 




It’s important to have patience when filing a civil lawsuit in Michigan and to consult with an attorney. Many tasks need to be completed throughout your case, including investigation, record collection, discovery, depositions, legal motions, technical consultation, and, perhaps, settlement negotiations and trial.

The majority of civil cases are processed in the same manner. You must file a complaint and fees must be paid. A summons will be issued, and the parties must be served notice of the complaint. Then, hearings will be scheduled, and answers must be given. The hearings are mandatory. The result of the case will be a final decision by the judge.



Getting in Touch

There are very specific rules under Michigan law that guides the lawsuit process. We understand that these rules can be complicated and confusing. It’s also good to realize that not following a rule precisely can affect the outcome of your case. If you’re ready to file a civil case in Michigan, then you may want to talk to a lawyer, and we’d be happy to step in and help. We encourage you to contact DFWN today so you can start the process and we can work together to help you reach a settlement.