So You’re Being Sued
Being served with papers can be one of the most terrifying and stressful moments a person can experience. With little grasp on the law and no clue what might happen to you in the future, you are sure to feel lost and alone. But don’t worry
You know you are being sued when you receive two documents: a “Summons” and a “Complaint.” The summons informs you that you are being sued and lets you know how to respond, while the complaint provides the basis for which the plaintiff is suing.
The biggest mistake one can make after being served with papers is to ignore them, set them aside for later and fail to act quickly. At this point, the lawsuit is in your hands and your fate rests in the decisions that you make. How you choose to respond will lay the groundwork. We here at i-lawsuit have created a cohesive step-by-step manual that explains the proper steps that you should take after being served papers.
The biggest mistake one can make after being served with papers is to ignore them
Most lawsuits require a response within 20 to 30 days, depending on the case and the jurisdiction. If you set your papers aside and fail to act within the deadline, the plaintiff may apply to the court for a default judgment. This means that if you do not respond within the required time frame, the plaintiff may be awarded everything they requested.
Compile a collection of any papers, correspondence, bills, photographs, receipts and contracts that may be relevant to your case. If you are unsure what is significant, your attorney can help you sort through the mess.
Seek Legal Assistance.
Hire an attorney straight away. One of the biggest mistakes that a person in this situation can make is to assume they do not need to hire a lawyer. While an experienced attorney may be expensive, that money spent will be pocket change in comparison to potential money lost in a judgment against you.
Evaluate Your Options.
Your attorney will play a critical role in helping you decide which route to take. The following are your three options:
Consider a settlement and/or mediation: Through a formal mediation or an informal personal conversation, extending an olive branch may keep you out of court and allow you to settle your dispute on your own. Before doing so, speak with your attorney who may be able to advice you on a negotiation strategy.
File an answer: Filing an answer simply allows you the opportunity to respond to the claims listed in the complaint, and to compose affirmative defenses against those claims. This is the most common response because it offers a defendant the chance to buy time while preventing a default judgment.
File a motion to dismiss: You may file a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff has no legal right to bring about a lawsuit against you. Common reasons to file a motion to dismiss are that there is a lack of jurisdiction, insufficient service of process and failure to state a claim.
Sue the plaintiff: In certain circumstances you may have the opportunity to pursue a counterclaim against the plaintiff.
File Your Response.
Work alongside your attorney to complete your response and file it with the court, along with any filing fees that apply. Be sure to provide the opposing council with a copy of your response – this is called “service of process.”
This is the part of the process where each party has gained information about each other’s case. Discovery is gained through interrogatories, document production or depositions. During this period either party may request any number of motions. When a motion is requested the court intervenes, therefore the more motions that come about, the more drawn out and entangled the process will become.
Prepare For Trial.
The great majority of lawsuits are settled before trial, so chances are you will never have to step foot in a courtroom. However, it can’t hurt to be prepared. Have your attorney walk you through the experience of a trial, and train you on appropriate attire and responses to questions you may be asked.
Be Ready For What’s Next.
Depending on how adept your attorney is, how much documentation you have been able to provide and the components of your particular case, you may win or you may lose. Be prepared for either scenario.