How-To Respond To A Lawsuit
Have you been served with a lawsuit? Being sued can be one of the most stressful and frustrating experiences in life. First of all, don't panic! But do not simply ignore the lawsuit. Responding to the lawsuit is the first and one of the most important steps in a lawsuit. If you don't file a timely response, the person who sued you can win by default. By filing a response, you begin defending yourself by telling the court that you contest the allegations in the in the complaint. This forces the plaintiff to prove their case and gives you your "day in court."
The most common steps involved in responding to a lawsuit are as follows:
STEP 1 - Call an Attorney Immediately. An attorney experienced in defending against the type of lawsuit you've been served with will undoubtedly be the best tool in your defense toolbox. Lawyers are knowledgeable about the procedures involved in lawsuits and skilled at making persuasive arguments to a judge or a jury in your defense. An attorney can also help you try to settle the case out of court as an alternative.
STEP 2 - Determine When a Response is Due. You must file a response by a certain deadline. The summons on the front page of the court documents should include a notice of time limit to file a response. For most civil lawsuits, a defendant usually has either twenty (20) or thirty (30) days to file a response with the court, however some cases have very short deadlines (for example some eviction lawsuits may have a three (3) or five (5) day deadline to respond). The summons will contain the information about the court where the lawsuit is filed and you can call the clerk for more information about the deadline. DO NOT wait until the last minute to contact an attorney as the attorney will need time to adequately prepare a response in time.
STEP 2 – Decide Which Kind of Response to File. There are a variety of responses that can be filed with the court in response to a complaint. An attorney who is skilled in defending lawsuits may suggest certain responses based on the specific nature of the complaint such as a motion to transfer the lawsuit to a new "venue" (location), a motion to "quash" an improper service of process, a "demurrer" (stating that the allegations in the lawsuit are not legally sufficient for the plaintiff to sue you), or other kinds of responses. However, the most common response to a civil lawsuit is called an "Answer" (some other name depending on the state). An Answer is a written document in which a defendant admits or denies the allegations in the plaintiff's complaint and sets forth the reasons why the defendant should not be liable. Any statements contained in the complaint that are not denied in an Answer are deemed by the court to be true. In an Answer, all "affirmative defenses" must also be raised. An "affirmative defense" is any statement of fact or law that would be a defense to the allegations. Common examples of "affirmative defense" include (1) "statute of limitations" - the time period allowed under law to bring the lawsuit has expired; (2) "assumption of risk" - that the plaintiff knowingly exposed him/herself to the danger or harm; and (3) "accord and satisfaction" - that the parties have already settled the dispute. Affirmative defenses usually have to be raised in the Answer or else they are deemed to be "waived" and the defendant will not be able to rely on them later.
STEP 4 - Send a Copy of the Response to the Plaintiff. A copy of the response you filed with the court must be sent to the plaintiff and/or the plaintiff's attorney. Most courts require you submit a "proof of service" to the court.
NEXT STEPS - After you have filed a response to the lawsuit, your attorney will begin discussions with the plaintiff's lawyer to explore settlement opportunities. In the meantime, the parties will engage in the discovery phase, which is the exchange of relevant information about the underlying dispute. Throughout the process there are usually hearings scheduled with the judge to try to keep the case moving along efficiently. Settlement negotiations may be ongoing as well. While most cases settle out of court, if the parties can not reach an agreeable settlement then the case will usually go to trial where either and a judge or a jury will decide who should prevail.
Speak to an Experienced Litigation and Appeals Attorney Today
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified litigation and appeals lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local litigation and appeals attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.
Additional Litigation and Appeals Articles
- Can My Attorney Quit?
- The Benefits of Litigation Funding Companies
- All About Affidavits
- Hiring an Out of State Attorney
- How to Choose a Litigation Funding Company
- What You Need to Know When Hiring a Lawyer
- Ending An Attorney Client Relationship
- What to Do if Your Attorney Doesn't Comply with Professional Obligations
- What is E-Discovery?
- What to Bring to an Initial Consultation With a Lawyer
- He's Just Not That Into You – What to Do When You Don't Like Your Lawyer
- What Is A Retainer Agreement?
- Under What Circumstances Should I Hire A Lawyer?
- What Does A Flat Fee Agreement With An Attorney Cover?
- Can I file a lawsuit without a lawyer?
- What Is A Contingency Fee Agreement?
- Is An Initial Consultation With A Lawyer Confidential?
- Which Is The Best Lawyer For My Legal Situation?
- When Hiring A Lawyer Should I Consider The Lawyers Age?
- How Should I Prepare For My Meeting With The Lawyer?
- What Questions Are Important To Ask A Prospective Attorney?
- My lawyer didn't finish handling my legal matter. What can I do?
- How Do I Know Which Lawyer To Hire?
- On what grounds can I file a complaint against a lawyer?
- What Other Things Should I Consider Before Hiring The Lawyer?
- I want to thank my attorney for his/her service. What would a sample thank you letter contain?
- How long must an attorney keep a client's records?
- What Questions Should I Ask Myself In Making A Decision About Hiring A Lawyer?
- Will My Lawyer Handle Everything, Or Should I Help?
- How Does A Lawyer Set The Fees I'm Charged?
- Do All Lawyers Use The Same Fee Agreements?
- In Addition To The Lawyer's Fees, What Other Costs May Be Involved?
- Should I Get The Fee Agreement In Writing?
- What Should The Fee Agreement Include?
- How Often Will I Be Billed By My Lawyer?
- What If There's A Problem With The Bill Or I Can't Afford To Pay?
- What Is The Best Strategy For Working With My Lawyer?