The document that starts every civil case is called a complaint. This document is filed by the plaintiff and served on the defendant. Then, the defendant responds by filing a document called an answer.
In the complaint, the plaintiff states what the defendant did wrong. In the answer, the defendant responds to the complaint. A defendant may, for example, claim that:
- They didn’t do anything that was alleged in the complaint.
- They did only a portion of what was alleged in the complaint.
- Even though they did what was alleged in the complaint, they did nothing wrong.
Depending on the subject of the case, the complaint and answer could look very different. Sometimes those documents have a lot of information, and sometimes they have very little information. Regardless, the purpose of these documents remains the same.
When our firm represents you as a plaintiff, we draft and file the complaint. When the defendant answers the complaint, we take a look at what he or she says to find out where to go next.
It’s always interesting to find out what the other party will admit, what they will deny, and whether they have any complaints of their own. If the defendant does have complaints of their own, they have what’s called a counterclaim — in short, this means that sometimes when you sue somebody, they answer you by suing you back.
When we represent you as the defendant, we will know where to start once you have been served with a complaint.
Sometimes this complaint tells us a lot about what the plaintiff thinks you did – other times, the complaint is very vague. (For example, some complaints will say something as simple as: “Your client breached the contract he had with me.” And not much more.)
The questions then are: What was the contract? What were the terms of that contract? In what ways did you not fulfill your end of the agreement? Sometimes the complaint spells this out and sometimes it doesn’t.
What Goes Into A Complaint
The details that are included in a complaint depend on the type of case and the lawyer who is handling it. When we are representing a plaintiff, we usually prefer to keep the complaint as simple as possible. For example, if we are filing an auto accident case, we’d probably say when and where the accident occurred but not necessarily a lot more than that.
Other lawyers tend to err by going on and on for 10 or 20 pages. Some of that excess is just wanting to spend more time and bill their clients more. But some attorneys are known for being very detailed in their complaints. As a defendant, that tends to be helpful because it gives your attorney a lot more information right at the start of the case. Sometimes there are critical admissions in all that excessive detail.
The exception to limiting details is if the case is likely to catch local media attention. Then it may be helpful to be more specific in your complaint so that when reporters get a copy of the complaint, they have more information about why you’ve filed suit.
Exceptions In Cases Dealing With Fraud
When you, as a plaintiff, are claiming that someone has committed fraud, (that they deceived or tricked you), you have to be very specific about who deceived you, how they deceived you, when they deceived you, and how you were hurt. Consequently, a complaint that alleges fraud must have much greater detail as to what the fraudulent acts or statements were.
If the allegation of fraud isn’t described in detail, that’s something we challenge when we represent defendants. That is because people are not supposed to go into court and throw the words “fraud” or “deceit” around without being very specific about what exactly was done that was fraudulent.
How Long The Defendant Has To Answer An Initial Complaint
The length of time a defendant can take to answer a complaint varies. If you are served with a complaint as a defendant in a civil case, you will also receive a document called a summons.
This summons will tell you how long you have to answer the complaint that has been filed against you. In the state and federal courts around Green Bay, you typically have anywhere from 20 to 60 days, depending on the type of case and who the parties are.
With the guidance of a skilled attorney for Civil Law Cases, you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that we’ll make it look easy.
For more information on Civil Law in Wisconsin, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (920) 759-8114 today.
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