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Legal Fairness for All

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Being Sued

If there is a universal truth, it is that no one wants to be sued. Receiving notice that someone is suing you is one of the most unpleasant feelings in the world.


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You immediately think about having to hire a lawyer, testify in court and maybe pay out your hard earned money to the person suing you. Everything else goes on hold while you focus on the fact that someone has essentially challenged you to a fight.

Things to Know if Someone is Suing You

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How Do You Know You're Being Sued?

You receive a summons and a complaint, delivered either in person or through the mail. The summons tells you that you are being sued and need to respond and the complaint tells you the reason for the lawsuit.

Do not ignore these two documents! You cannot avoid being sued by pretending it is not happening.

Decide if You Want to Respond to the Complaint

If you have a defense to the complaint, then you most likely want to respond to it since you have a chance to win. This is when it is time to talk to a lawyer.

It is also a fact that fewer than 3% of the civil lawsuits filed go to trial. The vast majority are settled out of court. So if you have a good case and a good lawyer, you could settle the complaint in your favor and never see the inside of a courtroom.

If you do not have a good defense, then it might be in your best interest not to respond to the complaint. This is because fighting a lawsuit can be expensive, and if you lose, you may be ordered to pay the plaintiff's attorney fees in addition to the amount you already owe the plaintiff.

Keep in mind, though, that if you do not respond to the complaint within the required timeframe - essentially telling the court that you do not plan to respond - and the plaintiff wins a default judgement, then you forever lose your opportunity to present your side of the story to the court.

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Proceed in a Timely Fashion

If you do decide to respond, you will have to check with your jurisdiction to see how long you have to do so. In most states, the time limit ranges from 20 to 40 days.

Whether you receive notice of the lawsuit in person or through the mail can also factor into how long you have to respond to the other side.

A lawyer will ensure that your response is filed correctly.

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Gather the Appropriate Documents

You need to pull together any documents you have - emails, photographs, letters, bank statements, bills, etc. - that can support your side of the story. If you do not have the documents on hand, see if you can obtain copies from the person or entity that has the originals.

File Your Answer with the Court

In most jurisdictions, you must file your formal answer in the same courthouse where the lawsuit was filed. This information will be in the summons/complaint you received.

Each court has its own guidelines regarding how a defendant should file an answer to a lawsuit. These guidelines often include specific instructions about how you should refute the claim against you so check with your jurisdiction to see what it recommends.

You have to pay filing fees when you file your response, and you have to send a copy of your response to the plaintiff.

An attorney will ensure that you craft the best answer possible to the complaint.

Expect Pre-Trial Motions

Since few civil trials reach a courtroom, expect some pre-trial motions aimed at settling the lawsuit.

For example, the judge might grant a summary judgement, meaning that the judge looks at the facts and makes a ruling on his own. It might be in your favor or it might not be, but it settles the case and saves both sides a lot of time, money and headache.

You as the defendant might file a motion to dismiss the case if it is filed in the wrong venue, the court does not have jurisdiction, there is not a proper cause of action or other reason.

An attorney knows which motions to file and how to file them correctly.

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Get Ready for Trial

You absolutely need a lawyer if the lawsuit is not dismissed and proceeds to trial. As Abrahma Lincoln said, "A man who represents himself, has a fool for a client."

An experienced trial attorney knows the law and how to navigate the courts. He understands strategy, knows what evidence to present and knows how to build a winning case.

Contact Us for Help

Ask a Law Question, Get an Answer ASAP!

If you are being sued, it can be frightening and overwhelming. Talk to an affordable attorney now to ensure that your rights are protected.

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The content provided on this site is informational only. It is not legal advice from a lawyer, does not constitute a lawyer referral service, and no attorney-client or confidential relationship is or will be formed by use of the site. Users of this website should contact an attorney to obtain advice with regard to any specific legal issue.

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