In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding car accidents, motorcycle crashes, and personal injury cases, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.
Starting a Personal Injury Lawsuit: Filing Initial Court Papers
In the state of New Hampshire, the legal documents and papers that are filed in court at the start of a personal injury lawsuit are referred to as “pleadings”. Your NH personal injury attorney will thoroughly explain how pleadings are relevant to the specific context of your personal injury suit, but the brief summary we’ll discuss below will provide you with a head’s up in understanding how many of these pleadings will become an integral part of your lawsuit. Some of these documents may be referred to by different names.
Petition or Complaint
In general, the first document filed in a personal injury lawsuit is the petition, sometimes referred to as the “complaint”. This document offers an outline of the plaintiff’s lawsuit against the defendant. The petition is a simple document that identifies each of the parties involved in the suit, provides a foundation for why a particular court has jurisdiction over the matter, states the legal claims of the plaintiff, and provides relevant facts that support the claim’s validity. The petition also features a particular section referred to as a prayer for relief or a demand for judgment. In this section, the plaintiff states what he or she desires for a New Hampshire court to do with regards to the defendant in the case, such as paying for monetary damages.
The primary purpose of a petition to is to give the defendant notice of the legal and factual bases for the plaintiff’s lawsuit. In general, the facts stated within the petition are based upon the personal knowledge of the plaintiff. Often times, the plaintiff will utilize the saying “upon information and belief” before stating a set of facts. In essence, this means that the plaintiff was informed of these facts by another party or has fashioned the belief that the aforementioned events happened as described. In New Hampshire, a petition is required to set forth a plain and concise summary of the plaintiff’s claims, so it should not come as a surprise if you believe that some of the facts contained within a petition are “sketchy” or do not appear to tell the complete story.
Service of Process and Summons
The summons is a legal order from the New Hampshire court wherein a personal injury claim will be litigated or heard. The defendant in a case is notified that he or she has been formally sued and creates a time limit in which the defendant must file a formal answer or petition a judge to have the lawsuit dismissed. The summons also lays out what the consequences will be if the defendant fails to respond to the summons in a timely fashion. For example, a lawsuit may be decided without the presence of the defendant, and he or she may be legally bound by the results of this decision even if they did not participate in the trial. When a defendant fails to respond to a lawsuit in a timely manner, it is referred to as being “in default”.
Summons are generally form documents. This form will contain a docket number, the names of all parties involved, and the name of the court who will be hearing the case. The document’s body will inform the defendant that they are being sued. This legal language is referred to as “notice”. The summons is served to a defendant, along with the petition, in person or through the mail. This process is legally referred to as “service of process”. Properly served, the summons provides a court with “power” or jurisdiction over the defendant and the specific case against them. A court with jurisdiction over a case is entitled to make decisions about the personal injury claim described within the petition and decisions that affect the defendant with regards to the lawsuit.
The response of a defendant to a claim is called an “answer”. The answer formally addresses each paragraph within the petition, and each individual response will assume one of three forms: insufficient evidence to admit or deny, denial, or admitted. Answers may also provide affirmative defenses to a legal claim, which are a set of legal reasons as to why the named defendant should not be held legally responsible for the damages of the plaintiff. These affirmative defenses can also form the foundation for a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed.
Counterclaims and Replies to Counterclaims
If a defendant believes that he or she possesses their own claim against the plaintiff, a claim that arises from the same circumstances that led to the filing of the petition, this claim will be stated in the answer under a portion entitled “counterclaims”. The body of a counterclaim assumes a form that is nearly identical to the petition.
If a defendant brings forth a counterclaim within their answer, the plaintiff must respond by filing a “reply”. A reply will assert that the plaintiff lacks sufficient knowledge, admits, or denies the information, just like the original answer does. A reply may also assert affirmative defenses.
Third Party Complaints
On occasion, a defendant who is being sued will possess a legal basis for handing off liability to another individual or party. A common example of this occurs when there is a contract in which a third party has promised to pay a plaintiff if the original defendant has been found culpable in a lawsuit. This third person or entity will be brought into the lawsuit should the defendant choose to file a third party complaint. As with regular complaints, a third party complaint states the relevant info and facts that form the basis of the defendant’s claim against the third party and states a request for relief.
Why You Need a New Hampshire Personal Injury Lawyer
These documents are simply the beginning of a mountain of paperwork that must be filed in a New Hampshire personal injury lawsuit. The process of filing a claim is complex and overwhelming, which is why you require the services of an experienced New Hampshire personal injury attorney to guide you through the process. To receive a free consultation regarding your case, please contact our law firm today via telephone, email, or through our website.
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This site does not constitute legal advice. An attorney client relationship is formed only after an agreement is entered into between an Attorney of Liberty Legal and a client is reached. Past results do not guarantee future results.
Disclaimer: Some cases are referred to other law firms with consent of client.
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