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I Have Been Sued. What Are My Options?

When you are sued, it can be a very stressful and confusing time. Your first reaction may be to ignore the lawsuit against you in the hopes that it will just go away. Although it may be tempting to follow your first instinct, ignoring a summons and Complaint may result in an unfavorable court decision for you.

In general, a civil suit is initiated when a formal Complaint is filed with the court and is then served on the defendant. The service of the Complaint operates as notice that you are now a party to litigation. Once you receive service, it is important to read the details of the Complaint to understand why you are being sued. You should take note of the date by which you must respond to the Complaint, typically 20 days from the date of service. The time you are given to file a response with the court can vary depending on the case, but once you are served, the time in which you must respond begins to run.

Since time is of the essence, you should contact an attorney immediately for advice on how you should proceed, specifically one who has experience in that area of law that your lawsuit involves. Finding an attorney who specializes in that area of law will help ensure that you are receiving sound legal advice.

Failure to respond to a Complaint can be damaging to your case, and it gives the plaintiff the opportunity to seek a default judgement against you. A default judgment is a binding judgment in favor of either party based on some failure to act. When a plaintiff seeks a default judgment, he or she may ask the court for everything requested in the Complaint. Once a default judgment is entered, the plaintiff can ensure monetary payments by garnishing your wages, attaching your bank account, or taking your property. You can avoid such an unpleasant result by quickly contacting a knowledgeable attorney and filing your response before the deadline.

When responding to the Complaint, it is important to understand and evaluate all your options. One option is to speak with the plaintiff and try to negotiate a settlement or resolution. It is important to keep in mind that if the plaintiff is represented by an attorney, you should not contact the plaintiff directly—all negotiations must be between the attorneys. If negotiations are taking place, you must still be aware of your deadline to file your answer, as it is common for negotiations to break down.

Another option is to file an answer to the Complaint. In an answer, you respond to all of the plaintiff’s legal claims and allegations. It also gives you the opportunity to raise any arguments you may have to defeat the plaintiff’s allegations. In your answer, it is also important to include any affirmative defenses you may have against the plaintiff. An affirmative defense, if proven by the defendant, can relieve you of all or some legal consequences. However, in many cases, if an affirmative defense is not included in the answer, it is waived. One of the most important things about filing an answer on time is that is prevents the plaintiff from bringing a default judgement against you.

Alternatively, you can file a motion to dismiss. Grounds for filing a motion to dismiss may be for lack of jurisdiction, insufficiency of service, or failure to state a claim, among others. When you file a motion to dismiss, it stops the clock on the deadline for filing an answer. If the judge allows your motion to dismiss, the case is over. However, if the court denies your motion, you then typically have ten days to file an answer to the Complaint.

If you feel that you are unable to respond to the plaintiff’s Complaint because it is overly vague, you may file a motion for a more definite statement. Like a motion to dismiss, this would also delay the time you are required to submit and answer.

You can also respond to a Complaint with a counterclaim. A counterclaim essentially means you are suing the plaintiff by bringing claims of your own. There are two types of counterclaims: a compulsory counterclaim and a permissive counterclaim. A compulsory counterclaim is an appropriate claim to bring if your claims arise out of the same transactions or events. It is important to note that when you are contemplating a compulsory counterclaim, if you do not bring it in the initial case, you are barred from bringing it in a separate suit. On the other hand you can bring a permissive counterclaim at any time even in a separate suit. A permissive counterclaim is a claim that did not arise out of the same transaction or event that inspired the plaintiff’s claims.

When you are being sued, it is important to weigh your options. To get a thorough understanding of what your options are you should contact an attorney immediately. If you have any questions about motor vehicle accidents, negligence matters, personal injury law, tort law, intentional torts, damages, or other legal incidents, please contact our offices. You may schedule a free consultation with an experienced professional today. Call 978-225-9030 during business hours or complete a contact form online, and one of our experienced personal injury attorneys will get back to you.

Categories: litigation, settlement, advice

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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