Man in a suit thumbing through documents and taking notes

How to File a Lawsuit in Michigan

If your dispute with an individual or group of people has gotten to the point where any progress toward a solution has stalled, it might be time to file a lawsuit.

Of course, no one ever wants to sue or be sued. But a dispute that can’t be solved between individuals or organizations should be taken through the legal system. When it’s time to file a lawsuit in Michigan, it pays to understand the rules and procedures of filing a lawsuit—and to have an experienced attorney at your side.

The legal experts at Dingeman & Dancer, PLC are experts in Michigan law. Learn how our team can help you file a civil lawsuit in Michigan and guide you through what to do if a lawsuit is filed against you.

Should I File a Lawsuit?

Before filing a formal Complaint for your lawsuit, make sure you’ve extinguished every other option. Lawsuits should be treated as the last possible option.

Why? Because attorney and court fees can quickly pile up if you’re not prepared. Try some of these other methods of resolution first:


Negotiating with the person or people you’re in dispute with until you find common ground costs you nothing out of pocket and could save everyone a lot of time.

Write a demand letter

A letter demanding your wants to resolve the situation might be all you need to avoid filing a formal lawsuit. Better yet, hire an attorney to draft the letter for you to show you’re taking the matter seriously.

This is an especially useful tactic when you’re contemplating filing a lawsuit, as it could be a significantly less expensive option for the Defendant.

Can you collect? 

If you’re attempting to recover a sum of money, make sure the defendant is solvent before filing a lawsuit. While there are other ways to collect your judgment outside of a cash payment, it’s always best to know if the person you’re in dispute with has the resources to pay what you’re owed.

How to File a Civil Lawsuit in Michigan

If you believe the only way to rectify your issue is through a lawsuit, follow these steps for the most efficient, cost-effective experience:

Hire an Attorney

Your first—and most important—step is hiring an attorney to represent you. The State of Michigan has specific rules for the procedures of filing a lawsuit, so it’s important to have an experienced litigator guide you through the entire process.

The attorneys at Dingeman & Dancer can handle a wide range of lawsuits from employment dispute cases to real estate disputes and everything in between.

While potentially spending money upfront for an attorney can make you feel anxious, understand it could cost you more by not having a lawyer. Skilled attorneys know how to challenge evidence, understand filing procedures and know what documents to file, and are well-read on the latest legal processes.

When It’s Time to File a Lawsuit 

With an attorney by your side, it’s now time to officially file your lawsuit. The following steps and tips are for civil cases only, not criminal cases:

  • File a Complaint in the proper court. This is typically at a courthouse in the county where the dispute or wrongdoing took place. A Complaint needs to be specific and jam-packed with facts, including each claim and exactly what you hope to get out of the lawsuit, like a sum of money. This is your chance to tell your story, so keep it factual and in chronological order.
  • A Court authority then determines if your case has jurisdiction or not. Filing the Complaint in the wrong court, for example, can result in your case being thrown out because that court doesn’t have jurisdiction to hear it. If that happens, you must start over and refile in a different court. An experienced attorney will know where to file your lawsuit.
  • Jurisdiction expands beyond what Michigan county where your dispute occurred, it also relates to the type of dispute. Filing a case that alleges violations of Michigan law in a District Court, for example, could be thrown out because it is a dispute that is typically handled in Circuit Court. The same goes for a family dispute that is filed in District Court that should have been filed with the county’s family division court. If someone is owed money, the total amount could determine which court to file a lawsuit. The person you’re suing can always object to the court your lawsuit was assigned by filing a motion. That can result in your case being moved to a different court, or thrown out altogether, leaving you to start over again.
  • Statute of Limitations also come into play. All types of cases have a Statute of Limitations—the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit following a dispute. Personal injury disputes, for example, have a Statute of Limitations of three years from the date a person was injured. Debt collectors have six years to file a lawsuit seeking payment.
  • A summons is sent to the Defendant if the Court accepts to hear your case. Depending on how the defendant is served, a Summons in Michigan gives Defendants either 21 or 28 days to respond by filing an Answer to the lawsuit. If a Defendant fails to respond, a Judge could issue a Default Judgment against that person, meaning the Plaintiff receives whatever was asked for in their Complaint.

Again, a skilled attorney understands the intricacies of these steps and will guide you through the process.

Hearing the case

After receiving a Summons, a Defendant will either look to settle the dispute, file a defense that they don’t owe anything to the Plaintiff or make Counterclaims against the Plaintiff. At this point, either party can ask and pay for a jury trial.

If this happens, the lawsuit will go to trial where both sides present their story to the jury with the goal of reaching a verdict on the dispute.

Again, a Jury Trial (and the fees that go along with it) can be avoided if the two sides ultimately come to an agreement and settle.

What to Do When a Lawsuit Is Filed Against You 

If you receive a Summons that someone has filed a lawsuit against you, your first step is to hire an attorney to represent you in the matter.

As outlined above, Defendants have specific filing deadlines they need to meet to avoid having a Judgment placed on them.

If you’re being sued, you have some options:

  • Negotiate with the Plaintiff outside of court. This could potentially bring the lawsuit to an end without incurring any court costs.
  • File an Answer. If you believe the claims made against you are false and have evidence to back it up, file a defense with those arguments. You could also file a Counterclaim, alleging wrongdoing by the person who is suing you.
  • File a Motion to Dismiss. There are multiple reasons for filing a Motion to Dismiss, including a lack of jurisdiction or if you believe the Plaintiff did not file a legal claim in the Complaint.

Remember: You need to act immediately
if someone files a lawsuit against you because the Plaintiff will likely request a Default Judgment if you simply ignore the summons.

Whether Defending Against or Filing a Lawsuit, Choose Dingeman & Dancer, PLC

tThe most important step in filing a lawsuit or dealing with a lawsuit that someone filed against you is hiring the best legal representation. With more than 30 years of experience, the attorneys at Dingeman & Dancer have the expertise to handle the trickiest of disputes. If you need to file a lawsuit, choose Dingeman & Dancer, PLC. When you call us, you get us. Call 231-929-0500 or submit an inquiry online.