Steps To Follow if Being Sued

people needing representation because they are being sued

Being sued because of failing to pay a debt or breaching a contract can be a scary, confusing experience. If you are among the approximately 300,000 people who are sued each year in the U.S., you may not know where to turn. There are a specific set of laws you must follow to settle the case. You need to educate yourself to protect yourself and resolve the matter in the easiest way possible. Here is what you need to know if you are getting sued.

What Does It Mean To Be Being Sued?

The law gives people the right to seek money or compensation against any person or company they feel has wronged them. In other words, they have the right to pursue litigation against another person in civil court. By filing a lawsuit in a court of law, they can bring an action against someone and present a case in front of a judge. By filing a complaint, they can seek compensation for the financial, physical or mental losses they have suffered. The person filing the claim is the plaintiff, and the person being sued is the defendant. Plaintiffs can seek compensation for a variety of legitimate reasons, including:

  • Bad debts
  • Breach of contract
  • Breach of warranty
  • Failure to return a security deposit
  • Libel, slander or defamation
  • Personal injury
  • Nuisance
  • Product liability

The above is not a comprehensive list of all reasons someone can pursue litigation. They can sue someone for any number of reasons if they present enough evidence in court to convince a judge of their claims.

What Should I Do if I Am Being Sued?

While you may be sued for various reasons, the basic process for responding to the lawsuit is essentially the same. Here are the steps you should follow.

Step 1: Read the Paperwork

The person initiating the lawsuit must prepare a written statement called a complaint telling the courts what the issue is and the damages they are seeking. Keep in mind that most plaintiffs will hire an attorney to prepare the complaint on their behalf. Next, the complaint must be filed with the local court, and a copy must be sent to the defendant. Read the complaint thoroughly when it is delivered to find out how much time you have to respond, when you need to appear in court and who is suing you and why.

Step 2: Check for a Procedural Issue

Occasionally the plaintiff does not follow the proper procedures when filing the lawsuit. You may be able to get the case dismissed if you identify a grave mistake was made. Here are some common errors made when filing a complaint:

  • Did they serve the complaint properly? The person suing you is legally required to provide you with a copy of the complaint within a specific period. While most states do not have set restrictions, you must have sufficient time to respond to the complaint.
  • Where did the plaintiff file the complaint? Depending on where the alleged act took place, the complaint must be filed in a specific jurisdiction’s court. Make sure the plaintiff complied with all venue rules.

Have your attorney thoroughly review the paperwork to ensure no rules were violated before you respond to the complaint.

Step 3: Try To Negotiate a Settlement

Going to court should be the last alternative after all other actions have been exhausted. You may be able to work out a settlement with the plaintiff. You can make an official settlement offer by writing a letter to the plaintiff’s legal counsel. However, how much you offer depends on a number of factors. Such as the strength of the case against you and your financial resources.

Many people make a first offer to pay approximately half of the plaintiff’s demand. Even if they have a strong case, the plaintiff may accept the offer to avoid going to court. You can make a lower offer if you believe the case against you is weak or you do not believe they have sufficient evidence to present to a judge.

Step 4: Suggest Mediation before being sued

If the plaintiff does not accept your settlement offer, mediation is another option. Mediation is a dispute resolution process in which a third party, often a trained mediator, facilitates a conversation between the plaintiff and the defendant. During the conversation, you and the plaintiff have the opportunity to present evidence to the mediator for review. The mediator reviews the materials and will encourage a voluntary resolution of the dispute before a trial.

Step 5: Gather Evidence for Trial

If mediation and settlement attempts fail, the case will go to trial. The key to winning a civil dispute is convincing the judge of your version of events. To do this, you need to substantiate your oral presentation with written documentation such as contracts, photos, statements and financial documents. You can also call eyewitnesses to testify on your behalf in court.

Step 6: Present Your Case in Court

You will be provided with a court date, and you must appear on that date or the judge may automatically rule in favor of the other party. On the day of the trial, the plaintiff presents first. You and your attorney can present your case after the other party finishes. Be prepared to make a logical presentation and to support your claims with written evidence and eyewitness testimony. In addition, be ready to answer questions from the judge and not become flustered if you are interrupted by the judge or the plaintiff’s attorney.

Work With an Experienced Attorney

If you receive documentation outlining a lawsuit against you, you need to seek the help of an experienced attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you understand the complaint against you and the steps you should take to resolve the complaint. However, it is not a good idea to ignore the lawsuit. Dismissing the case will only cost you more time and money in the long run. 

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