Written by Attorney Ross A. Nilson of Brudvik Law Office, P.C.
At some point many individuals and businesses get to a point where they feel that they need to start a legal action to accomplish their goals. The goals could range from collecting on an unpaid bill to challenging a wrongful termination. For those individuals and businesses that are inexperienced with the legal system it inevitable leads to the question of “What do I do next?”
The first step should be to contact an attorney to determine what exactly you want to accomplish through legal action. Or in other words – what do you want at the end of the day?
The next step should be to determine what is the best method to accomplish those goal(s).
If you are collecting on an unpaid bill for less than $15,000, small claims court may be the best method to get paid. This process is started by the filing and serving of a claim affidavit on the opposing party. Small claims court proceedings typically do not require an attorney but some circumstances may benefit by hiring an attorney.
However, many circumstances are not right for small claims court primarily because the damages suffered are greater than $15,000 and other legal claims are not allowed to be brought into small claims court. Those cases have a general pattern that is followed to start the legal action.
1. Summons and Complaint
When you meet with an attorney there will be a determination on what legal claims fit your particular set of circumstances. From those circumstances, a Complaint will be created which sets forth the basic facts of your case and the legal claims made. The Summons simply informs the opposing party how long they have to respond after being served with the Complaint.
In North Dakota, the Summons and Complaint must be served on the opposing party. This can be accomplished a number of ways but the most common methods are having a process server serve the Summons and Complaint on the party in person or via the mail. How service can be properly effectuated depends on who you are bringing the legal action against.
After service has been completed, you and your attorney can decide whether you want to file the Summons and Complaint with the Court. In North Dakota, you are not required to immediately file the Summons and Complaint with the Court. An attorney can explain the advantages and disadvantages of immediately filing or not filing with the Court.
2. Answer and Possible Counterclaim
The opposing party, aka the Defendant, has 21 days to serve a response otherwise known as an Answer to the Summons and Complaint. In the Answer, the Defendant will be able to offer their side of the story and raise possible defenses to your claims.
The Defendant can also raise what is known as a Counterclaim. A Counterclaim is a legal claim against you. If a Counterclaim is raised you have 21 days to file an Answer to the Counterclaim.
These steps are the first basic steps to starting a legal action. Each case is unique and the possible avenues for proceeding with the legal action are dependent on the circumstances for each case. Contacting an attorney will help you determine how to proceed with your particular case. If you are considering starting a legal action or need help in defending a legal action, please contact Brudvik Law Office, P.C. online or at for a free consultation.