What to Do If You Are Served with a Summons and Complaint?

• Get legal help as soon as possible! In many cases you only have 30
   days to respond. For many hearings you only have a few days.
• Read the forms. Try to figure out what they are about.
•  Take your forms with you when you go to ask for legal help.

Read the papers that are given to you to find out the party that is suing you. Is it a corporation, a partnership, or an individual? Are they a customer or a supplier of your business? Who is the lawyer representing the party that is suing you? This information will help your attorney obtain a more favorable result for you by researching the other party and its counsel. (Do they settle often? Are they a big company? What are their financial resources? Do they have a reputation to maintain and therefore may want to settle quickly?).

What exactly are you being sued about? Is it a claim for damages because you were involved in an accident? Is it a non-payment claim, or a non­performance claim? There are many reasons why a person may be sued.

Timing is critical in a lawsuit. Responses must be filed within a set period. While an extension can be granted, don’t wait until the last minute to hire an attorney. It takes time to prepare an appropriate answer to the papers. If you do not respond in a timely fashion, you will be considered in default, and a judgment may be taken against you. This means you may lose the case without the opportunity to provide a defense.
Also, don’t assume you are judgment proof, because judgments can be collected from future earnings as well as assets. In addition, do not assume that your insurance covers everything, although it may be wise to notify your insurance carrier as well as your attorney.

What court are you being sued in? What county? State or Federal Court?

You may be sued in a state far away if, for instance, you have done business in that state or injured someone. In that case, your attorney will have to obtain local counsel for you in the other state, and this takes time.

Why did the party resort to a lawsuit? Is it something you can fix by having your attorney talk to the other side and negotiate a settlement? Is there a running animosity between you or your company and the other party, in which case settlement may be difficult? Do you need to file a counterclaim against the other party?

Immediately notify and supply the lawsuit papers to your attorney. Make sure you retain a photocopy for yourself. Inform your attorney of all the facts relevant to the case. Your attorney will decide what is important and what is not. Organize your documents pertaining to the case so that you can minimize the time the attorney must spend going through them. This will save your attorney time, and therefore save you legal fees. Do not talk to the other party’s attorney. He or she works for the other party, just as your attorney works for you. Let your attorney do this for you. In addition, remember that in law, just as in any profession or business, there are rules and procedures your attorney knows and you may not. To stay out of trouble, leave the legal work to your attorney.

General Civil Lawsuit Information: http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/civil/

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