Steps to sue someone
This is the typical process for how to sue someone in California. You may not need to take every step. For example, many people work out an agreement (settle) with the other side and never end up going to trial.
Select any step shown below to learn more and get step-by-step instructions for your situation.
1. File the case
File papers in court and pay a fee to start the lawsuit. Then, have these delivered (served) to whomever you're suing.
2. Wait to see if the other side responds
The other side must file a response in court by a deadline. If they don't, you can ask the judge to decide the case without their input (called a default).
3. Prepare your case
This is usually the longest part of the process. You prepare your case by gathering evidence (called discovery). You and the other side can try to reach an agreement.
4. Prepare for your trial
Once you're done with discovery you will need to start to prepare for trial. Even now, you may end up reaching an agreement.
5. Go to your trial
If the case isn't settled, you'll go to trial. The judge will decide who wins and put it in a judgment. This says who wins and who owes any money.
6. Pay or collect
If you win, the other side will get a judgment that says how much they owe you or what they must do. If they owe you money, you'll need to collect it yourself.