Initiating a Civil Lawsuit: What is a Complaint?

Gavel used in Civil Litigation

A lawsuit, by definition, is a “claim or dispute brought to a court of law to resolve.” A civil lawsuit is one that involves a private dispute between parties. A civil lawsuit is initiated by filing a court document, or “pleading,” called a Complaint. The person filing a Complaint is known as the Plaintiff, and the opposing party is the Defendant. A lawsuit may have multiple plaintiffs and/or defendants.

The Complaint filed by the plaintiff or plaintiffs to initiate a lawsuit contains the basis for the suit. It names the defendant or defendants and states the facts of the complaint. Additionally, the Complaint states the remedy being requested by the plaintiff. Once the Complaint is filed with the court, it is served on the defendant. The defendant has 30 days in which to file an Answer to the Complaint.

An Answer is filed by each defendant responding to each allegation made by the plaintiff in the Complaint and stating any defenses to those allegations. In addition, the Answer contains any counterclaims against the plaintiff from the defendant.

This definition of the initial pleadings in a lawsuit is not in any way a full explanation, but a very simple introduction to the civil litigation initiation. Although an attorney is not a requirement for any party, it is normally in the best interest of the party to have competent representation by an attorney who is trained to create these documents and appear before the court on behalf of the party.

Revolution Law Group is located in Greensboro, NC, and serves individuals and small businesses throughout the Triad and surrounding areas. To contact us please visit or call 336-333-7907.

The information included here is for informational purposes only, is not exhaustive of all considerations when creating documents, is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be relied upon for that purpose. We strongly recommend you consult with an attorney and do not attempt to create your own documents.