Filing a lawsuit after an accident without a personal injury attorney requires an extensive amount of paperwork. Here are some steps to help you through the free online forms provided by the California Judicial Council.
Let’s assume you have been injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault. Most of the forms you’ll need will have a space at the top for “Attorney or Party Without Attorney”. If you are not being represented by a personal injury attorney, you will enter your own name and contact information on all forms.
In the right column, you will see a space listed for your case number. As a brand new case, you will not have this yet; however once assigned your case number will remain the same throughout the duration of your litigation.
Under case name, you will list the names of the parties, listing yourself as the plaintiff. If there is more than one defendant, you can list as many names as the space will accommodate. To abbreviate, you can list the defendant’s name followed by et al.
Car Accident Example
While browsing all forms, select the drop down bar for Case Management and select form number CM-010, Civil Case Cover Sheet. This form allows you to select the type of case you are filing. Remember, you are only checking one box so choose the one that best describes your case.
- In our car accident scenario, you will choose (22) under Auto Tort, Auto in BOX 1.
- On line 2, you will more than likely indicate that the case is not complex, but if any of the factors exist to support a complex case in A-F, select the option that fits.
- On line 3, select the remedies sought. Typically in an auto accident, the remedies sought are strictly monetary (otherwise known as pain and suffering).
- On line 5, select the number of causes of action. We will go over those shortly.
- On line 5, this will never be a class action suit in an auto accident case.
- On line 6, indicate whether there are any related actions and sign/date below.
Go back to browsing forms and select the Pleading – Personal Injury, Property Damage, Wrongful Death tab. From there, the first form to use is the Complaint (PLD-PI-001).
- Complete the information as listed above, and in the COMPLAINT box select Motor Vehicle. If you sustained property damage and personal injury, select those boxes.
- Select the amount of money in controversy. If it is less than $10,000 or between $10,001 and $25,000, it is considered a “limited” civil case. If it exceeds $25,000.00, it is unlimited.
- On line 1, list the name of Plaintiff.
- On line 2, list the number of pages of the whole complaint.
- On line 3, list whether any plaintiff is not an adult — they might be a business, corporation, public entity, minor, etc.
- On line 4, if a Plaintiff is doing business as a fictitious name, this should be indicated on line 4.
- On line 5, indicate whether one of the defendants is not a natural person (i.e. a human being, not a business entity).
- On line 6, you may list “Doe defendants”, which are people whose names are unknown to you. By naming Does, you have the option of amending later to add the true names of these defendants.
- On line 7, you may list those defendants joined under Code of Civil Procedure 382 (simply put, people who should have been Plaintiffs but did not consent to be listed as such).
- Line 8 establishes jurisdiction. The most common ways to establish jurisdiction are that the defendant must reside there, the principal place of business of a defendant corporation or unincorporated association must be there, injury must have occurred there or some other jurisdictional basis.
- On line 9, indicate whether a claims statute is required.
- Line 10 lists all the causes of action one can file. Select those that apply and remember to attach the judicial council form corresponding to that cause of action.
- Line 11, details the damages sustained by plaintiff. You do not have to attach the “proof” yet, but be prepared to list a number.
- Line 12 applies to wrongful death actions.
- Line 13, provides the jurisdictional basis for the relief sought.
- Line 14 indicates what plaintiff prays for judgment.
- Line 15 states which paragraphs are alleged on information and belief – meaning the evidence for these claims will be forthcoming.
- This form must be signed and dated.
Next, the Plaintiff may select the following forms depending on which causes of action have been alleged:
Every complaint must have a Summons attached, puts the Defendant on notice that they have 30 days from the date of personal service to respond to the allegations listed in the complaint. If the Defendant does not respond, the Plaintiff can file a default against him/her.
Filing a Sacramento County Lawsuit
It is always a good idea to look at the local rules of the county in which your action will be filed. These rules vary, so you must check each county individually.
Here are the rules for Sacramento County courts.
It is also a good idea to check local forms to determine whether the county has special forms not listed on the Judicial Council website.
- One such form is the Civil Document Drop-Off Sheet. This form must be completed to detail the kind of case and form of payment. Sacramento is an incredibly busy county and all filings are dropped off vs. filed over the counter.
- Another commonly used form is the Credit Card Authorization Form.
Once all of these documents have been completed, you must take the original, signed version and make two additional copies for filing. The Statewide Civil Fee Schedule breaks down the fee for any type of filing you have. For a personal injury matter, the filing fee is $435.00 unless a fee waiver is filed.
You Don’t Have to Face a Personal Injury Case Alone
Clearly this can be a complicated process. The internet and the free resources available to self-represented parties make it easier; however, if you find that you need to file a lawsuit, sometimes your best resource is a personal injury attorney who is experienced with the complex processes and paperwork. Our firm offers a free consultation.