To begin a case against someone who has done you harm, you must file a complaint with the court to get the case started. The complaint is the initial filing. You might need or want to file an amended complaint to add defendants who might share responsibility for your injuries or to provide more information, either as requested by the court following a motion to dismiss, or because you have new information regarding your injuries.
Always get an experienced trial attorney to help you with these matters. The rules can be complicated, and an experienced attorney can make sure you don’t make a mistake that could sabotage your case.
What Is in the Original Complaint?
The original complaint names the defendants, states the facts and legal grounds of your case, and requests recovery in the form of damages. A complaint includes a request for damages.
Why Would I Want to Amend My Complaint?
In some cases, you might not have had all of the information to make certain legal arguments when you filed your complaint. For example, you might learn that yet another person could share in the liability for your injuries. You can ask the court for leave to amend your original complaint for any reason.
In Nevada, if you want to amend the complaint within 21 days of filing the original complaint, you do not have to ask the court for permission. While many states have similar rules, the time limits for filings can vary.
The court reviews the reason and, if your request is reasonable, will usually grant the request. You always have to ask the court if you can amend your complaint unless the court orders you to amend the complaint.
In some cases, the defendant files a motion to dismiss your complaint based on the content of the complaint. The court usually allows you to amend the complaint to add the items the defendant believes should be in the complaint—or delete items that the defendant thinks you should exclude. The court reviews the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and if the court agrees with the defendant, it will issue an order to amend the complaint. If the court disagrees with the defendant, you do not have to amend your complaint.
Does the Court Always Grant a Motion to Amend?
No. If the court believes that the amendments you want are not fair to the defendant, the court will deny your motion. If the defendant files a motion to dismiss your complaint and the court believes that the motion is unfair to you, the court will deny the defendant’s motion. The earlier in the process that you file an amended complaint, the more likely the court will grant your request.
Summons and Fees for Amended Complaints
You do not need another summons for the amended complaint. Additionally, you do not need to pay an additional fee to file an amended complaint as long as the amended complaint filing follows the rules.
To amend the complaint, you draft a new one, either adding what you or the court believes is missing or deleting what the court ordered you to.
How Long Does the Defendant Have to Answer the Amended Complaint?
As mentioned previously, the time limits discussed in this blog post refer to the rules in Nevada. If you live in a different state, you will need to check the rules that apply to your state. Many states have similar rules, but the time limits for filings can vary from state to state.
When you file your original complaint in a Nevada court, the defendant has 21 days to respond with either an answer or a motion to dismiss your complaint. Sometimes a defendant will include a counterclaim against you in their answer. If you file an amended complaint within 21 days, the defendant has the balance of time left or 14 days, whichever is farther out, to respond to the amended complaint. The other side’s attorney can also request an extension of time to file from the court, which the court may or may not grant.
In most cases, a defense attorney will file their responsive pleading—either an answer or a motion to dismiss—close to the end of the original 21 days because it generally takes time for the defendant to retain an attorney after they receive service of your complaint, time for the attorney to review the complaint, and time to draft the pleading.
The Defendant’s Response
The defendant must also file a response to your amended complaint. If the defendant asked the court to dismiss your original complaint and the court did not dismiss it but asked you to amend it instead, the defendant must file a response, or the court could hold the defendant in default. The defendant’s answer, once filed, signals the next phase of the litigation process.
Does the Amended Complaint Take the Place of the Original Complaint?
Yes. Once you file an amended complaint, as far as the court is concerned, the original complaint no longer exists. Thus, when you amend a complaint, you must be sure that all facts and points of law you intend to keep from the original complaint are also in the amended complaint.
For example, if you file a complaint to collect damages in a car accident, then later find out the defendant was drunk and you want to amend the complaint to ask for punitive damages, you should make sure that everything you had in the original complaint is also in the amended complaint.
If you leave something out of the amended complaint, you cannot go back and add it unless the defendant agrees to or the court permits you to file a second amended complaint. Also, if you leave something out and you reach the trial stage, you cannot ask for something that wasn’t in your complaint at the trial. It must be in the amended complaint or the original complaint if you never amended the original complaint. You are best leaving these tasks in the hands of an experienced Nevada personal injury lawyer who can properly write and file your amendment/s.