Common Mistakes That You Can Avoid

Here is what the court staff see as the most common errors made by attorneys and members of the public when representing themselves. People often:

  • Forget to sign the court documents (pleadings).
  • Don't include the required attachments (exhibits) with the papers that you file with the court.
  • Fail to provide the correct addresses to serve the papers on the other side. (The address should include the local subdivision and/or county as well as the apartment number if there is one.)
  • Do not provide detailed directions to help the sheriff to find the other party to give them a copy (serve) of the court papers.
  • Submit the wrong filing fees. (Call the court clerk if you are not sure or check these lists for District Court and Circuit Court fees).
  • Sue the wrong party, especially when trying to sue a business.

Tip on traffic accidents cases – Sue the driver who caused your injury or property damage, not the insurance company. District Court staff report that this is another common mistake. Other common mistakes to avoid include: 

  • Not completing all the blanks in the court papers (pleadings).
  • Failing to include everyone who must be part of this case.
  • Failing to mention other related cases.  Check court records for other related cases or pending cases.
  • Failing to verify certain supporting documents under oath.
  • Giving the Court Papers to the Other Side Yourself - You cannot personally give the documents to the other side. You need to follow the special rules on how to “serve” (or notify) the other side about the case. Read the Rule: Md. Rule 1-321
  • Failing to provide additional copies of court documents (or pleadings) for service (giving copies to the other side).
  • Forgetting to Actually Mail the Documents - Failure to actually mail the documents as required by a Certificate of Service is another common mistake. In addition, make sure the date in the certificate of service is true and accurate.

3 Tips From The Court

  • Keep Copies - You should always keep extra copies of all pleadings, letters to the judges, and anything dealing with the case.
  • Finding Your Vital Records - If you need help locating some of your records, visit our Finding Your Vital Records Page.
  • Serving Certain Documents - If you plan on using certain documents (such as certified business records) for court, you will need to send a copy to the other side. Again, please remember to do this well in advance of the court date.
A special project of the Eastern Shore Regional Library under a Library Services Technology Act grant from the Division of Library Development Services/MD State Department of Education (author: Ayn H. Crawley)
Is this legal advice?

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