by Albert T. Brown Jr., Lawyer Referral Service Panelist
Most importantly, when you are sued you receive a Summons issued by the Court. That Summons advises you that you have 28 days to file a written answer with the attorney who filed the law suit against you, and three days from that date to mail or file a copy of that Answer with the Court which issued the Summons. If you do not do both of those things, a Judgment can be taken against you. If you think you have been sued because someone is trying to deliver personal certified mail to you, do not avoid picking up the certified mail because there is a method of service which can bring you before the Court even if you do not pick up the certified mail.
If the Summons has anything to do with the operation of a motor vehicle or an event happening in or around your home and seeks damages from you, it is imperative that you give written Notice to any insurance agent who may have written a policy on your car or residence at the time of the event complained of. The pencil is your friend; the telephone is your enemy. Trying to engage the lawyer or the person who has filed suit against you in a telephone discussion will not preserve your rights.
If you fail to respond to the Summons in writing with a copy to opposing counsel you may have a Judgment rendered against you without further notice. The Court is under no obligation to provide a party who is in default of an answer with notices of hearings and events occurring after the initial time for default has run. If the claim arises out of an insured event, make certain that an Answer has been filed on your behalf by an attorney hired by the insurance company.
Until the insurance company enters an appearance, it is your personal assets that are on the line.
If the suit does not involve an insured event, your Answer should be drafted by an attorney. There are specific rules regarding the way in which defenses to a suit should be raised, and your failure to raise these issues at the beginning of a suit can adversely affect your rights even if you later hire an attorney.
Many attorneys will conduct a brief review of the pleadings which have been filed at the courthouse and give you a preliminary estimate of the charges necessary to resolve the issue at a minimal charge.