What to Do When You Have Been Sued

If you have not been involved in a lawsuit in the past, you should know what to do if you are sued. Here are some simple steps you should consider taking.

1. Seek Legal Advice Immediately. Surprisingly often, clients will put off contacting their attorney until weeks after they have received the summons and complaint. The law requires that you file a written response to a complaint within a specified time, usually between 20 and 30 days. If you fail to file a response on time, you may be prohibited from defending yourself altogether. More likely, however, you may have to pay additional fees and costs to cure the delay. The best practice when you receive notice of a lawsuit is to note the date and time you received the complaint and immediately contact your attorney.

2. Gather all of your insurance policies. The claims raised in the complaint may be covered by insurance policies you have purchased. In this regard, you should review the terms of any business policies, homeowners' policies, or even automobile policies which you maintain. You may also want to consider whether the claims could be covered by any insurance purchased by third parties for your benefit (i.e., employers, landlords, or tenants). If there is a chance that the claims are covered, the insurance company may be required to pay for the attorney fees and costs of defending the action. Therefore, it is crucial that you provide your attorney with copies of the policies as soon as possible. If there is coverage, your attorney can notify your insurance company.

3. Do not destroy documents. Once a lawsuit is filed, keep and preserve all of relevant documents and information, including documents stored on your computers. You should keep both "good" documents supporting your case and "bad" documents because any destruction of documents will likely be discovered. After you have consulted with your attorney to determine which documents will be relevant to the case, and which can be safely destroyed, you can resume your normal document destruction practices.

4. Establish a Secure Lawsuit File. Lawsuits are document-intensive endeavors. Within a few weeks, you may find yourself overwhelmed with court filings, correspondence, notes, etc. By organizing the documents early on into a separate file cabinet or, in large cases, a "war room," you can better control the paper avalanche to come.

You should separate the communications with your attorney from other documents you have related to the lawsuit. Those communications are privileged and the opposition has no right to see them. By separately maintaining the privileged documents, you can avoid inadvertent disclosure. Also, be careful about disposing of privileged documents. We usually advise our clients to shred all privileged documents once they are through with them.

5. Be Careful When Approaching Your Opponent. Some clients will immediately contact the person suing them after being served with the complaint. Beware, however, that statements that you make can and will be used against you. It is therefore important that you be very cautious in your contacts with the opposition. It is better to discuss what you wish to say and how you wish to say it beforehand with your attorney.

6. Limit Discussion of the Merits of the Case to Communications with Your Attorney. While communications with your attorney are privileged, communications among a business's officers or partners are not necessarily privileged. Your discussion and evaluations of the strengths and weaknesses of your case can be discovered by the opposition. It is important that you limit discussion of the merits of the lawsuit to those conversations with your attorney (or those conversations that you have in anticipation of discussions with your attorney).

7. Exercise caution in discussing the matter with others. News that you have been sued can travel quickly both inside and outside your business unless you limit the persons who are informed of the matter. Very little good can come from discussing the lawsuit outside of your business control group. Distribute information on a need-to-know basis only. Assume that statements made to your employees will be communicated to your customers. Also assume that statements to your customers will be communicated to your opponent. Be particularly cautious about discussing the case with the media.

By following these important steps, you can greatly ease the burden on you and your business. In so doing, you can also go a long way toward assisting your attorney in defending your rights and obtaining the best possible outcome.

Practice Areas

Statement of Practice Summary: Civil Liability, Civil Litigation (Plaintiff and Defendant), Personal Liability, Pedestrian Injuries, Personal Injury Law, Professional License Defense, Severe Burns, Head & Spine Injury, Business, Lawsuits, Employment, Contracts, Fraud and Deceit, Wrongful Death, Uninsured Defense, Trial Practice in all State and Federal Courts.

Areas Served

Counties Served:

We serve all counties in California: Alameda County, Alpine County, Amador County, Butte County, Calaveras County, Colusa County, Contra Costa County, Del Norte County, El Dorado County, Fresno County, Glenn County, Humboldt County, Imperial County, Inyo County, Kern County, Kings County, Lake County, Lassen County, Los Angeles County, Madera County, Marin County, Mariposa County, Mendocino County, Merced County, Modoc County, Mono County, Monterey County, Napa County, Nevada County, Orange County, Placer County, Plumas County, Riverside County, Sacramento County, San Benito County, San Bernardino County, San Diego County, San Francisco County, San Joaquin County, San Luis Obispo County, San Mateo County, Santa Barbara County, Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz County, Shasta County, Sierra County, Siskiyou County, Solano County, Sonoma County, Stanislaus County, Sutter County, Tehama County, Trinity County, Tulare County, Tuolumne County, Ventura County, Yolo County, Yuba County.

Cities Served:

Los Angeles County, CA: Agoura, Altadena, Alhambra, Bellflower, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Calabasas, Century City, Chatsworth, Compton, Culver City, Diamond Bar, Downey, Downtown Criminal Court, El Segundo, East Los Angeles, Eastlake, Encino, El Monte, Glendale, Glendora, Hermosa Beach, Hidden Hills, Hollywood, Huntington Park, Inglewood, Los Angeles Lawyer, La Canada, LAX Court, Los Padrinos, Long Beach, Los Angeles Attorney, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Marina Del Rey, Newhall, Norwalk, Palos Verdes, Pasadena, Pomona, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, San Dimas, San Fernando, San Marino, San Pedro, Santa Clarita, Sherman Oaks, Sierra Madre, Santa Monica, South Gate, South Pasadena, Sylmar, Torrance, Universal City, Valencia, Van Nuys, West Covina, West Hollywood, Walnut, Westchester, West Hollywood, Westlake Village, Whittier, Woodland Hills, California. Orange County, CA: Anaheim, Anaheim Hills, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine Attorney, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, La Habra, La Palma, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Orange, Orange County Lawyer, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, Yorba Linda, California. Ventura County, CA: Camarillo, Moorpark, Oxnard, San Buenaventura, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village. San Bernardino County, CA: Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland.

© 2010 Charles P. Charlton Law Firm All Rights Reserved : Webmaster Kevin Grey Lee