Have you been notified of a lawsuit against you? Do you feel overwhelmed, anxious, and afraid of what is to come? These feelings are normal and shared by others in similar positions, especially by people who have never been sued before. The main reason people feel this way is because they don’t know their options once a lawsuit has been filed against them. The purpose of this article is to provide a bit of information so you can get an idea of what you should and shouldn’t do when served with papers.

Service of Process is the legal term used to describe the procedure by which the party bringing a lawsuit (known as the Plaintiff) gives notice of the legal action to the party being sued (the Defendant). Service typically includes a Summons and the Complaint. The Summons is a document that notifies the defendant that a case has been filed against him or her. The Complaint describes the nature of the lawsuit and contains the facts surrounding the case, the legal allegations, and the remedy being sought. There are several ways service of process can be made but the most common are in person, through a third party within the residence of the named defendant, or mailed to the defendant’s home or place of business. If the lawsuit is brought in state court, the deadline to respond (or “answer”) is 30 days after service.

The worst thing you can do after being served is ignore it. There are many reasons why people do this, including fear, uncertainty, and not understanding the legal process. The law requires a person to respond to a summons. Failing to respond can lead to a Default Judgment. A default judgment means that the plaintiff wins the lawsuit automatically because the defendant did not appear to defend the case. Oftentimes in collections cases, a default judgment will lead to further consequences, including wage garnishments or bank levies. Do not let this happen to you because there are few options available once a default judgment has been entered by the court.

Your best option is to speak with an attorney; one who specializes in the area of law you are being sued under. The attorney will review the facts and provide you with an outlook of the case, along with a plan of action. It is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after being served since state law requires an answer to the summons within 30 days of service.

-Alex Lim