What Is a Countersuit?

by Elizabeth Marcant
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Imagine a scenario where you get into a car accident. You're sure that the car accident was caused by the other driver. However, you discover that the driver is suing you for damages they incurred during the accident, such as their medical bills.

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You might have your own losses associated with the accident, so what do you do? In this case, you might countersue. This is a claim you make against the other person, legally stating that you believe that they owe you some type of compensation in the matter.

Countersuits can be used for a variety of legal purposes and aren't limited to personal injury cases.

What Is a Countersuit?

A countersuit is a legal claim you make against someone who is already suing you. When you countersue someone, it's also referred to as a counterclaim.

The court treats countersuits differently depending on the facts of the case. If two people are countersuing each other and the material facts and basic issues are the same, the court may address them at the same time. For example, in the case of two people suing each other after a car accident, the basic issue is who is at fault for the incident — or to what extent each person is at fault. That really only has to be decided once.

However, in some cases, the court may treat the countersuit as something to address separately. This can include the court ordering a separate trial so that the rulings on the various claims are separate and do not impact each other.

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Why Do Countersuits Exist?

The main purpose of the countersuit process is efficiency. It provides the ability — and some level of motivation —for all parties in a matter to raise their issues before the court within the same trial process. This can reduce the number of individual matters that make their way to the courts.

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What Can You Countersue For?

You can file a countersuit if you have a claim against the other party.

For example, say a creditor sues you for a debt, but this debt was the result of what you believe to be fraudulent activity on the part of the creditor. You might countersue. Or if a landlord is suing a tenant for unpaid rent, the tenant may countersue if the landlord has not completed necessary repairs, and this is the reason rent has been withheld.

Many people wonder if you can sue someone for wrongfully suing you. You might have seen scenes on television legal dramas where characters claim they will countersue someone for wasting their time. The law is a bit more complicated than this.

You can't simply sue someone because you spent time defending yourself after they sued you. Other people also have rights to the legal remedies involved in lawsuits.

However, if you can show that someone filed a lawsuit against you simply to harass you, this may warrant a claim for malicious prosecution. In this case, you may be able to file a claim for the frivolous lawsuit or ask the judge to sanction the other party's lawyers and fine the other party.

Ultimately, the best way to understand whether you have a counterclaim is to work with a lawyer who is experienced in the type of lawsuit you're dealing with.

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