A civil action - a claim for money damages - is begun by the filing of a complaint with the court. A complaint is simply a statement advising the person who was sued, "the defendant", what they did wrong and the injury caused by the wrong. In a civil case, you have to prove and set forth in the complaint what are known as the "elements" of a cause of action in the complaint and explain why the case belongs in that court in that state or jurisdiction. The "elements" of a civil action for negligence, for instance, requires a statement of a duty, e.g. to stop at a red light, a breach of a duty e.g. that the defendant went through the red light, and, a statement of damages, e.g. a broken leg, back and neck pain. The statement permitting the case to be in that state or jurisdiction would describe that the incident took place in that state or jurisdiction and/or that the wrongdoer lives in that jurisdiction. Once the complaint is properly drafted, it has to be filed with the court and the clerk of the court puts it into a format which can be used to "serve" the defendant.