Home Management The Essential Elements
of A Well-Written Complaint
The Essential Elements of A Well-Written Complaint

The Essential Elements
of A Well-Written Complaint


The Essential Elements of A Well-Written Complaint

A complaint shapes the foundation of any court litigation. Apart from the function of imitating the case proceedings, a complaint must adequately describe the facts of the case, presenting legal hypothesis, interpretations and jurisdiction; provide prayer for relief request to the court; and must be structured to shield itself from motion to dismiss. It should also be forceful enough to acquire valuable data by mode of discovery and, most importantly, must be persuasive enough to obtain a favorable verdict from the judge.

Utmost care and precision must be given while undertaking research and then structuring and designing the complaint draft. The document must be clear, straightforward, concise, sharp, and error free with formatting that complies with the respective rules of the court.

Prior Research and Examination

Before drafting a complaint, an attorney must undertake appropriate research and examination to ensure that the complaint includes all of the facts and solid legal theories in the best interest of the party. The research must include discussions and information examination of the clients, witnesses, other parties associated with the case and thorough inspection of each and every document and transcript relating to the case. The lawyer might also consider interviewing the opposing party prior to the case. On the whole, it must be ensured that no stones have been left unturned and no possibilities are left unchecked. While penning down the facts, this method would be more effective than a formal discovery.

Filing of the Complaint

Be sure to check the limitation period for filing a complaint pertaining to the violation of law being presented in the document. These time limits vary between both state and federal law and the nature of the offense. The three most common ways a statute of limitation may take effect are from the date of harm, the date plaintiff first discovered the harm, and the date plaintiff should have discovered the harm. The first instance may apply in cases where, for example, a plaintiff is hit by car– the statute of limitations to sue to driver of the car would be clocked from the date of the accident. In other instances, the harm maybe be discovered at later time, such as cases of hidden property damage found upon later inspection. In cases where the limitation period has run out, the lawyer must research and find options and exceptions available to file a complaint appropriate to the situation.

Drafting Style

A complaint gives the first impression of the plaintiff’s allegations, defendant’s actions and relief requested. Being the foundation of the case, the complaint and its every paragraph will be continually referenced during the court proceedings. Hence, extreme care must be taken while drafting a complaint. The draft must be straightforward, simple (yet descriptive), well structured and densely narrative. While bringing all the necessary elements together, care should be taken not to forgo the persuasive element, which is very important. The reader must identify the wrongs committed, recognize that an injustice has been done, understand the legal theories, and then feel that the request to the court is rational and justified.


A comprehensive and precise synopsis of the facts in simple language can be provided in the preliminary statement of the complaint and the legal theories and interpretations can be placed subsequently. Under the segment of Facts, the version of the plaintiff’s story can be positioned along with the portrayal of allegations, acts committed by the defendant, or those actions which the defendant abstained from undertaking which resulted in the violation of law. Each allegation must be supported with the interpretation of legal statuses and case laws. The Legal Violations and Relief section must be drafted in a logical flow. In addition, great care should be taken to follow the formatting rules, especially while captioning the party names (plaintiffs and defendants).

Evading Motion to Dismiss

Get to know the typical reasons for dismissal in any particular jurisdiction in question. This will help to draft a complaint that shields itself from being dismissed and can withstand any filings of motion to dismiss. Cross checking the complaint to recognize and rectify any potential errors is especially crucial.

Generally, a motion to dismiss is filed alleging the following legal deficiencies: lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, insufficiency of process or insufficient service of process, and/or failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Insufficiency of process or insufficient service of process is a technical defect, but all other grounds can be avoided by the lawyer if he or she has vigilantly researched the relevant statute and law thoroughly and drafted the complaint adequately.

For example, states may specify that probate matters should be tried in special probate courts, rather than in general civil court, as per their probate litigation procedure. However, for the last ground, the defendant(s) may challenge the complaint as legally invalid by focusing on the facts alleged in the complaint and the exhibits attached. This can buy valuable time for the attorney if the facts set forth are descriptive with a legal claim.

Prayer For Relief Request

The request for relief—when you request the justice for the wrongs committed by the defendant–should be crafted meticulously. Each and every kind of relief (including injunctive or declaratory relief, compensatory or punitive damages, etc.) must be provided with the endorsement of factual and legal claims preceding it. The request must be reasonable and the demand must not be overstretched.

About the Author

This article was provided by LegalEase Solutions. LegalEase is a specialized legal research and writing company serving attorneys, law firms and legal departments across the US and beyond since 2004. For more information, please feel free to contact us at 1(877) 712-8003 or email us.

Full disclosure, Legal Ink Magazine is an affiliate partner with LegalEase Solutions.

Priyanka Menon
Priyanka Menon


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