HOW DO I FILE A LAWSUIT IN TEXAS: FIRST STEPS
I need to file suit in Texas. What can I expect in the first phase of the suit? This guide will walk you through the initial phases of what you can generally expect in litigating a case in Texas courts.
What is Civil Litigation?Civil litigation normally involves the resolution of claims that have arisen between individuals or entities for injuries or losses that one of the parties has suffered by the individual physically, mentally or emotionally, to a person’s property, real or personal, that arises under the Texas Constitution and legislatively enacted codified civil codes and statutes as well as civil common law
Important Rules and DeadlinesIIn a civil lawsuit rules and deadlines are important. Pro se litigants must follow the same rules as parties who are represented by attorneys and are bound by all the Rules of Professional Conduct that attorneys are bound by. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure govern all civil cases in Texas state courts. In general, the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure set forth rules regarding pleadings, discovery, and deadlines. These rules may be supplemented by county or court-specific rules. For more information, consult the "Resources and References" list on our website.
Statute of LimitationsA lawsuit must be filed within the Statute of Limitations period applicable to the particular cause(s) of action. Some causes of action have very short limitations periods, so it is critical to analyze applicable limitations periods before filing the case. If the lawsuit is filed after the Statute of Limitations has passed, it is forever barred from being pursued. Depending on the facts at issue, a party may be able to assert an exception to the Statute of Limitations, such as the "discovery rule" or fraudulent concealment, which can extend the limitations period. There are multiple statutory limitations sources, but first consult Chapter 16 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code regarding the Statute of Limitations generally
Commencing a Civil LawsuitA civil lawsuit begins with the filing of a Petition (or a Complaint in Federal Court) by the injured person or entity, the Plaintiff(s), against the person or entity which is alleged to have caused the injury, the Defendant(s). In the Petition, the Plaintiff(s) sets out the basic facts that give rise to the cause of action against the Defendant(s), the legal basis for such causes of action, as well as a description of the injuries or damages that have been suffered and the relief that is sought.
When the suit is filed, the Clerk randomly assigns the case to one of the civil courts. The Clerk also prepares the Citation which is to be served upon the Defendant with a copy of the Petition to explain to the Defendant that he or she has been sued and must file an answer. Service of the Citation and Petition on a Defendant is normally handled by either personal service by a County Constable or a private process server, or by registered or certified mail. If for some reason, however, service cannot be completed through normal channels, then a Judge can order that service be accomplished in other manners, such as through publication of a notice in a newspaper or by placing a copy of the order for alternative service, the citation and the petition on the door of Defendant’s last known place of abode.