Getting Served: What to Do When a Lawsuit Arrives at Your Door
Imagine this: you’re enjoying a quiet afternoon when someone arrives with a document that makes your heart sink – a lawsuit. Suddenly, a world of legal jargon, deadlines, and court appearances looms before you. Don’t panic! While getting served can be stressful, knowing what to do can make the process less daunting.
First things first:
- Take a deep breath. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed, but panicking won’t solve anything.
- Read the documents carefully. This includes the summons (informing you of the lawsuit) and the complaint (detailing the allegations against you).
- Understand the deadlines. You have a limited amount of time to respond to the lawsuit (usually 20-30 days). Missing these deadlines can result in a default judgment against you, meaning you automatically lose the case.
- Contact a lawyer. This is crucial. A lawyer can explain your rights and options, advise on potential defenses, and represent you in court.
- Gather evidence and documentation. This could include emails, contracts, receipts, or anything else relevant to the case.
- Consider alternative dispute resolution (ADR). This could include mediation or arbitration, which can be quicker and cheaper than going to court.
What happens if I don’t respond to a lawsuit?
If you don’t respond within the deadline, the plaintiff can ask the court for a default judgment, which means they automatically win the case.
How much does it cost to hire a lawyer?
Lawyer fees vary depending on the complexity of the case and the lawyer’s experience. It’s important to shop around and compare rates.
What is alternative dispute resolution (ADR)?
ADR is a process where both parties agree to use a neutral third party to help them resolve their dispute outside of court.
Can I file a counterclaim?
Yes, you can file a counterclaim against the plaintiff if they owe you money or have otherwise harmed you.
What happens if I lose the lawsuit?
If you lose the lawsuit, you may be ordered to pay damages to the plaintiff.
How long does a lawsuit typically take?
The length of a lawsuit can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s schedule. However, it can take several months or even years.