Have you ever sued somebody? Have you wanted to? Will you have to do so in the future?

There are a lot of reasons to start a lawsuit. Most of the time, it’s because somebody hasn’t dealt fairly with you. They may have harmed you physically or financially. Maybe they didn’t deliver what they had promised. Possibly they’re refusing to give you something they owe.

While there are many types of lawsuits, most fall into a few categories. Here are 11 top reasons to sue someone.

Compensation for Damages

A common form of this is monetary compensation for personal injury. Someone, either deliberately or through negligence, has caused you bodily harm. You can demand payment for hospital bills or lost wages. If you’re no longer able to fully enjoy life and do the things you love, you can seek compensation for emotional distress. The injury can be anything from an auto accident to a physical attack to food poisoning at a restaurant.

You might also seek compensation if someone has, deliberately or through negligence, damaged your home or anything else you own. Also, if someone you love has died, you may be able to collect for emotional damage from loss of companionship, referred to as "wrongful death".

Enforcing a Contract

Contracts can be written, oral or implied. Written contracts have the advantage that everything is there in black and white, and a court to see what you agreed to.

You might need to sue for breach of contract if you didn’t get what you paid for, for example, if a contractor didn’t satisfactorily complete their required work. Another situation is collecting a bad debt, where you are owed money and the other party refuses to pay. Contract disputes can also arise when the language of a written contract is unclear or there’s a disagreement about what people agreed to orally.

Breach of Warranty

When a merchant or manufacturer creates a warranty for a product, and the product doesn’t do what it should, the warranty has been breached and you are entitled to compensation. A warranty can either be written, given orally by a salesperson, or implied in advertising. Companies must keep all promises, not just those that are written down.

Product Liability

It’s one thing when a product doesn’t do what it should, but it’s another thing entirely when that product is dangerous and causes injury. Unfortunately, that happens thousands of times every year in this country. There are product liability rules about who’s responsible when you’re hurt by a dangerous or defective product.

Property Disputes

You have the right to peacefully enjoy your property. If someone nearby creates a safety or health hazard or any other kind of nuisance, you may have grounds to sue. These would be things like obnoxious odor or late-night noise and lighting.

Another kind of property dispute involves encroachment on property. This happens when a neighbor builds a shed or a fence that intrudes on your land. You can ask the court to order that it be removed.


We usually call it “filing for divorce” rather than “suing for divorce,” but divorce is in essence a lawsuit. It’s different from other suits and is governed by its own set of rules.

It varies quite a bit from state to state and usually falls under family law. Unlike most other suits, sometimes it’s not completely adversarial. Divorce law aims to settle matters in a manner fair to both the partners and the children, if any.

Custody Disputes

These take place between parents who are divorced or who have never been married to each other. Often these parents will agree about how to raise their children, but, when they don’t, there can be lawsuits regarding not only custody but also who will pay for the children’s support.

In some cases other relatives may file custody suits claiming one or both parents are unfit to raise children. Whatever the case, the welfare of the children is the count’s overriding concern in these lawsuits.

Replacing a Trustee

Often people set up a trust to take care of children or grandchildren after they die. The trustees are required by law to use the trust assets in the children’s best interest. If the beneficiary of the trusts thinks the trustee is either unwilling or unable to do so, they may sue to have the trustees removed.

Slander and Libel

If someone says something about you that is untrue and that causes harm to you or your business, that’s slander. If they do it in writing, that’s libel. Both fall under the general category of defamation.

It’s not enough that someone said something false. You also have to show that the offender knew it was false, that people recognized it was about you and that it caused you financial loss or significant damage to your reputation.

Discrimination and Harassment

This takes place when you have been treated unfairly based on race, sex, age, disabilities or any other characteristic that’s protected from discrimination by law. It can happen in a workplace or your dealings with a business or agency.

In most cases you much file a complaint with a federal or state agency before you can bring a lawsuit.

Professional Malpractice

This is a specific type of damages suit. Most people associate this with medical malpractice, but other professionals such as lawyers and accountants are expected to use the normal skill of their professions and can be sued if they cause harm because they didn’t.

With lawyers and accountants your loss must be a financial one, but in medical malpractice suits you can claim damages for physical harm you have suffered.

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