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Amended Complaints: A Brief Overview


You likely know what it means to complain about something. You can complain if Wendy’s screws up your drive-through order or if the government fails to deliver your stimulus check. But if you use the term “complaint” in a legal setting, it means something very specific.

In this article, we’ll talk about what a legal complaint is and what happens when you make one. We’ll also speak about amended complaints, another legal term about which it’s good for you to know.

What is a Complaint?

In legal terms, a complaint occurs when you start an action against someone, either an individual or a company, that has harmed you. The complaint to the court gets your case started. By the time you register a complaint, you have probably already hired a lawyer to help you with the various legal hurdles with which you’ll have to contend.

A complaint amendment spreads out the legal blame. In other words, you’re amending the original complaint because you’ve realized that not just one person or company harmed you.

You can add as many defendants to a complaint as you want, assuming you’re not including them baselessly. You and your lawyer must prove your assertion that all of these entities harmed you, so you can’t frivolously add people or businesses just because you feel like it. Doing so will probably hurt your case and make victory less likely.

When Can You Amend a Complaint?

If you want to amend your original legal complaint, there are two likely reasons why you would do that. The first is because the original defendant’s lawyer might file a motion to dismiss. You can block that by claiming that more individuals or entities than you first named caused your injuries or hardship.

The second reason is that you find out additional information after you file the first complaint. For example, maybe a pharmaceutical company harmed you. You ingested one of their drugs over the years and contracted cancer because of it.

You can sue the manufacturing company because they failed to test the drug for side effects. However, you might later find that there was an independent body that did some testing, but it wasn’t sufficient. You can name the testing company in the amended complaint.

Can You Do That at Any Time?

It would be nice if, as the injured party, you could add to the complaint at any time. You can’t, though. There are certain protections in place to prevent you from amending the complaint with impunity.

You can only add to the complaint for a certain designated period. That period usually changes depending on what state you’re in when you file the complaint. You typically have a few weeks to do it.

If the allotted time has elapsed, and you still want to amend the original complaint, you need to ask the court for permission to do that. It’s up to the court to decide whether to allow you to do so.

If the court feels like you’re not treating the defendants fairly, then it could deny that request. If so, you’ll have to move forward with the original complaint as it stands.  

Are There Additional Fees or Summons When You Amend a Complaint?

You have to pay a modest fee when you file a complaint as part of the legal process. If you amend the complaint, then generally, you don’t have to pay the court any additional money. You don’t need to issue the defendant another summons, either, unless the new complaint names a completely new individual or entity who must now appear to defend themselves.

All you have to do is file a new complaint. In this new one, you’ll name any additional people or entities who you feel harmed you.

How Long Do the Defendants Have to Respond?

The defendants have to respond to the complaint as part of the legal process that could lead to a courtroom showdown between the defendant’s lawyer and your own. That’s assuming you couldn’t settle out of court.

How long the defendants have to respond depends on what state you’re in and whether the court accepted a newly amended complaint version. Generally, the court will not give the defendant longer than a few weeks to answer. In their response, they will indicate whether they plan to try to settle with you or continue on to a courtroom appearance.

Now, you know a little bit about complaints and amended versions if you ever elect to sue someone.