March 30, 2020

Pitts Carr and Alex Weatherby

What is a Complaint in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

In a lawsuit, a “complaint” is the first document filed with the Court that says the type of relief a plaintiff is seeking.

In a personal injury case (like a truck accident, bus accident, or spine injury case), the injured person prepares a document that says (a) what happened in the accident, (b) the injuries that occurred, (c) how the accident caused those injuries and (d) the name of the person or business that the injured person claims is responsible.

A complaint can be just a few pages long or, in some complex cases, can be close to or in excess of 100 pages.

A complaint is “filed” with the Court. Selecting a court can present its own unique challenge which we have written about previously.

Once the proper court is selected, the plaintiff sends the document to the Clerk of Court, who is a person appointed by the court to manage the documents.

Nowadays, this is typically done electronically through an electronic filing system. Once the document is submitted, the Clerk of Court will send back a copy of the document stamped “filed” to show that the Court has accepted it.

After a document is filed with the Court, it must be served on the defendant.

This means that a process server (in Georgia this is typically the County Sheriff) takes a copy of the Complaint and a summons to the Defendant.

A summons demands the defendant file a response to the Complaint within a certain time period, generally 30 days. The plaintiff pays the process server a fee for providing this service.

A complaint has to be drafted based on the specific facts related to the accident in question.

And, it can help to look at examples. An example complaint in a tractor trailer accident case looks like this:

COMPLAINT

COMES NOW, the Ms. Plaintiff (“Plaintiff”) and files this Complaint against Mr. Defendant and Defendant Trucking Company (collectively, “Defendants”) showing the Court as follows:

INTRODUCTION

This is an action to recover for the personal injuries suffered by Plaintiff as a result of Defendants’ tortious acts and omissions. Plaintiff was lawfully stopped for traffic on Georgia Highway X, when a tractor-trailer owned by Defendant Company and operated by Defendant driver crashed into the rear of Plaintiff’s vehicle. This crash proximately caused Plaintiff to suffer serious injuries and damages.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

Plaintiff, is a resident of ________ County, GA.

Defendant Company is a Georgia Corporation maintaining as its registered agent ___________________, where it may be served with process. Defendant is therefore subject to the jurisdiction and venue of this Court.

Defendant Driver resides at ________________, where he may be served with process. Defendant is therefore subject to the jurisdiction and venue of this Court.

This Court has jurisdiction over this personal injury action. O.C.G.A. § 15-7-4.

Venue is proper in _________ County, as Defendant Company’s registered agent is in said county. O.C.G.A. § 14-2-510(b); Ga. Const. 1983, Art. VI, Sec. II, Para. IV.

FACTS

On _________ date, Plaintiff was operating her vehicle in the center lane of a Georgia Highway, south of the intersection with a Georgia road. Plaintiff was lawfully stopped for traffic on the highway.

At or about this same time, Defendant was operating a tractor-trailer in the center lane of a Georgia Highway, behind Plaintiff’s vehicle. Defendant’s tractor trailer was hauling steel.

Defendant was driving too fast for conditions.

Defendant failed to pay attention.

Defendant failed to stop for traffic, including Plaintiff’s vehicle.

The front of Defendant’s tractor-trailer crashed into the rear and driver side of Plaintiff’s vehicle, causing severe damage.

Defendant negligently operated his tractor-trailer and caused the collision with Plaintiff’s vehicle. The negligence of Defendant included, but was not limited to, the following: (1) driving too fast for conditions in violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-180, said violation being negligence per se; and (2) failing to exercise ordinary care and diligence in the operation of his tractor-trailer.

Defendant’s negligence was the sole cause of the collision.

Plaintiff did nothing to cause the collision.

At all times relevant to the collision, Defendant Driver was acting within the course and scope of his employment and/or agency with Defendant Company and, as such, Defendant Company is liable for the actions of Defendant Driver under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

As a result of the collision, Plaintiff was severely injured. Her injuries included but were not limited to injuries to her ____, _____, and _________. Her injuries necessitated medical treatment and expenses.

Plaintiff has suffered injuries, disabilities, and pain and suffering. These injuries will continue into the future.

Plaintiff is entitled to recover from Defendants damages to compensate her for medical expenses, past, and future; lost wages, past, and future; pain and suffering, past and future; her physical injuries; and her physical disabilities.

Plaintiff is further entitled to recover from Defendants all other damages Plaintiff suffered as a proximate cause of Defendants’ negligent acts and omissions.

Plaintiff injuries and damages were proximately caused by the negligence of Defendants.

COUNT I: NEGLIGENCE

Plaintiff incorporates the preceding paragraphs 1 through 19 of the Complaint as if full restated herein verbatim.

Defendant Driver negligently operated his motor vehicle, proximately causing the crash at issue, and personal injuries to Plaintiff.

Plaintiff is entitled to recover from Defendants all damages proximately caused by Defendants’ negligent acts and omissions, in an amount to be proven at trial.

COUNT II: NEGLIGENCE PER SE

Plaintiff incorporates the preceding paragraphs 1 through 23 of the Complaint as if full restated herein verbatim.

Defendant Driver negligently operated his motor vehicle in violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-180, which constitutes negligence per se.

Defendant’s negligence proximately caused the crash at issue in this case and personal injuries to Plaintiff.

Plaintiff is entitled to recover from Defendants all damages proximately caused by Defendants’ negligent acts and omissions, in an amount to be proven at trial.

COUNT III: VICARIOUS LIABILITY

Plaintiff incorporates the preceding paragraphs 1 through 27 of the Complaint as if full restated herein verbatim.

At the time of the collision, Defendant Driver was employed by or acting as an agent for Defendant Company and was driving a vehicle owned by Defendant Company.

At the time of the collision, Defendant Driver was acting with the course and scope of his employment or agency with Defendant Company and was furthering the business interests of Defendant Company.

Defendant Company is liable for the acts and omissions of Defendant Driver and the resulting damages sought by the Plaintiff based on the doctrine of respondeat superior.

JURY DEMAND

Plaintiff demands a trial by a jury on all matters that can be so tried.

WHEREFORE, the Plaintiff demands judgment in their favor on all issues raised by the Complaint and demand she recovers for all damages proximately caused by the negligence of Defendants, and for all other relief to which he is entitled in law or in equity.

The Plaintiff further demands that all costs of this action be charged to Defendants.