You start a lawsuit by filing a complaint. In some circumstances, you file a petition or a motion.
The court has several complaint forms that you may use in drafting your complaint. The forms are available online and at the Pro Se Intake Unit. You may also write your own complaint without using a court form.
All complaints must be in English on 8-1/2” x 11” paper and include:
a caption with the court’s name,
the title “COMPLAINT” next to the caption,
a statement of jurisdiction,
claims in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of facts,
the relief sought,
the words “JURY TRIAL DEMANDED” if you want the case decided by a jury at trial,
your signature, address, e-mail address, and telephone number.
The court system can be confusing and it is a good idea to get a lawyer if you can. The law, the proofs necessary to present your case, and the procedural rules governing cases in the Law Division, Civil Part are complex. Since valuable claims or potentially heavy judgments may be at stake, most litigants appearing in the Law Division, Civil Part have a lawyer. If you are being sued, please contact your insurance company to see if they might provide a lawyer for you. Most likely your opponent will be represented by a lawyer. It is recommended that you make every effort to obtain the assistance of a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may contact the legal services program in your county to see if you qualify for free legal services. The telephone number can be found online or in your local yellow pages under “Legal Aid” or “Legal Services.”
In certain kinds of cases, you may be able to get the Debtor’s driver’s license or professional or business license suspended until the judgment is paid.
Here are some examples:
•If your claim had to do with the Debtor’s car or how he or she drove a car, the Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend the Debtor’s driver’s license and car registration until your judgment is paid. The judgment must be for $1000 or more, and it must be unpaid for more than 15 days.
•If your claim was about the Debtor’s licensed or certified business, notify the state or local licensing agency if the Debtor has not paid you. The agency may decide to revoke, suspend, or refuse to grant or renew a business license. It must be at least 35 days since the Debtor received notice of the judgment.
•In a Small Claims Court case, if a Debtor has three or more unpaid recorded judgments including yours, but he or she has the ability to pay them, you may be able to sue the Debtor for three times more than your original judgment. This is called treble damages. Ask the Small Claims Court Clerk if the Debtor is listed in the Small Claims Court’s index of unsatisfied judgments.
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