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Definition of Civil Complaint

A civil complaint is the first pleading in a civil case and initiates a civil lawsuit to seek relief for damages. The civil complaint will give notice to the defendant that legal action has begun against them by the plaintiff and will outline the material facts and legal theories of the case. The complaint will also ask the court for a legal remedy, generally monetary compensation, although it can also include an order to control the future actions of the defendant(s) through an injunction.

Included with the complaint will be a court summons which will provide the deadline for the answer to the complaint. The allotted time to respond to the complaint will vary by state and the type of complaint. For instance, claims for child support or evictions may allow a shorter time to reply. To answer a complaint you must include the name of the court and county, the name and address of the person who sued you (plaintiff), your name and address (defendant), and the case number and name of the judge. Talk to a lawyer if you have more questions about your case and to determine the cost for representing you.

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