If you’ve been served with a lawsuit, don’t panic. This article will detail what steps to take after getting served and your options. The most important step is hiring knowledgeable civil litigation lawyers; they can help you through this process.
What to Do When You’re Facing a Lawsuit
If you’re sued, follow the steps below to respond.
Hire an Attorney
You can gather evidence, respond to the plaintiff, or even defend yourself in many lawsuits without a lawyer. However, it’s best to hire an attorney when you receive the lawsuit. An attorney can help you determine the validity of the lawsuit, if you can make a counterclaim, and how to handle the lawsuit.
You have the right and option to hire an attorney at any point during the process, but it’s best to hire one as soon as possible. It will worsen the situation if you do not calculate your response deadline or craft a poor response.
Determine Your Deadline
Once the defendant receives the lawsuit notice, they have between 14 and 35 days to respond. The precise deadline ranges from state to state, typically around 20 calendar days.
If the defendant fails to respond within the allotted time, the plaintiff can request a default judgment or money judgment against the defendant. This judgment often means you pay everything the plaintiff requested and will not have the opportunity to defend yourself.
From now on, save everything even remotely relevant to the lawsuit, from photographs to receipts. Your lawyer can help you collect evidence that disproves the plaintiff’s claims or supports your counterclaim. Gathering evidence can be ongoing until the trial, so start as early as possible.
Evaluate Your Options
Once you and your lawyer understand the lawsuit, deadline, and evidence, it’s time to evaluate your options. As the defendant, your main options are:
- File a response disputing the plaintiff’s claims
- File a motion to dismiss
- File a motion for a more definitive statement from the plaintiff
- File counterclaims against the plaintiff
- Negotiate a resolution or settlement with the plaintiff
- Do nothing and pay the default judgment
Your lawyer will help you assess your options and choose the best option.
Prepare and File a Response
If you decide not to negotiate or do nothing, you will file a response to the lawsuit before your deadline ends. An official response indicates, to the court and plaintiff, that you plan to defend the case. Filing a response is more complicated than it may sound. You must use the proper court forms and phrasing from the plaintiff’s complaint.
Your lawyer will ensure you fill out the correct forms and use the proper language. Poor phrasing or word choice may work against you in court. Once you’ve prepared your response, you must make several copies for you, your attorney, the plaintiff, their attorney, and the court.
Typically, you need to file your response with at least two copies, pay a filing fee, and a copy of the original complaint against you.
After you file your response, the case can proceed in many ways. As mentioned, you can file a counterclaim against the plaintiff if you believe they wronged you. If you file a counterclaim or send an uncooperative response, the plaintiff may drop the lawsuit altogether. If not, the case moves to the discovery phase, where both sides collect and share evidence.
After discovery, you can go to negotiations to agree on a settlement or proceed to court, where a verdict will be given. Both parties have the option to appeal the verdict. Your attorney will be able to navigate the next steps.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer?
Can you face a lawsuit on your own? Yes, but it’s unwise. Being sued is often serious, and even if you’ve done nothing wrong, you can end up paying a large settlement because you weren’t able to defend yourself properly.
Contact expert lawyers that will help you navigate this complex process and fight the lawsuit. Reach out to CBJ Law today if you’re being sued and need help fighting it.