When legal disputes arise, you may need to act fast to avoid ending up losing your case. Simply taking too long to respond or failing to follow the right steps is all it takes to ruin your chance at fighting the lawsuit against you. Fortunately, you do not have to go it alone.
Read Through the Summons and Complaint
When someone files a lawsuit against you, a summons and complaint will soon land in your hands. You’ll want to read through this document to learn who’s suing you and what to do next.
The paperwork should include the contact info for the plaintiff’s attorney and a deadline to respond. In Florida, you must respond within a certain timeframe, and the clock starts ticking as soon as the document is served upon you.
Preserve Evidence to Handle a Lawsuit
Although your lawyer will help gather evidence, it’s important to preserve all relevant info you have from this moment forward. Depending on the complaint, you’ll want to gather up all your contracts and other applicable documents. Don’t forget to collect evidence of all correspondence between you and the plaintiff, including letters, emails, and text messages.
Meet with Your Lawyer
Since you only have a certain amount of time to file an answer after receiving the summons, meet with your lawyer right away. During that meeting, you’ll discuss how to best proceed and handle your lawsuit.
Decide Procedures to Handle a Lawsuit
With the info gathered during the consultation with your attorney, you’ll be able to choose how to respond to the summons, such as:
Try to Settle the Case
Sometimes, it’s best to try to settle the complaint out of court. You can speak to the plaintiff directly in hopes of finding a mutually acceptable resolution. Or you may want to have your lawyer set up a mediation session.
During mediation, you’ll receive help from a neutral third party in settling the case. You’ll first hear from the mediator before getting a chance to give your opening statement. After the plaintiff gives their opening statement as well, you’ll have a joint discussion and negotiation to determine the ideal solution.
File a Motion to Dismiss
In some cases, it’s wise to file a motion to dismiss the case. The most common reasons to file this motion include:
- The summons and complaint were not served upon you properly
- The court does not have jurisdiction needed to hear the case
- The plaintiff didn’t state a legal claim in its complaint
Upon filing the motion to dismiss, the rules of procedure may extend the deadline for filing an answer. If the judge decides to dismiss the lawsuit against you, then the case may be over. If the motion gets denied, then you’ll have to decide how to proceed once again and complete the next steps before the given deadline.
If you do not respond to the summons and complaint within 20 days, the plaintiff can ask the court to issue a default judgment. The court can then decide to rule in the plaintiff’s favor and award them compensation for the stated damages.
Answer the Complaint
If you simply want to fight the lawsuit in court, you’ll need to have your lawyer file an answer. By doing so, the court cannot issue a default judgment to the plaintiff.
Instead, the court will schedule a date for the judge to hear the case. During that hearing, your lawyer will defend you against the claims in an effort to get the judge to rule in your favor.
Create a Counterclaim
If you suffered damage due to the plaintiff’s actions, you may be able to file a counterclaim with your answer. You may need to file a compulsory counterclaim if your damages resulted from the same facts and circumstances described in the complaint. Otherwise, a permissive counterclaim may be the way to go.
Next Steps to Handle a Lawsuit with Your Attorney
If you decide to take the case to court, your attorney will go over the next steps in the process. Then, they will prepare your response and submit it electronically or in person by the given deadline.
Don’t forget to provide a copy of any official pleadings, correspondence or notices of hearing with the date and time of the hearing, if applicable. Beyond all that, plan to attend all mediation appointments, court hearings, and other meetings to see your case through to the end. If you’re unsure when and where to be, just ask your lawyer.
This description of how lawsuits are generally handled does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in any pending legal matter. The facts and circumstances of each legal dispute are unique, and the legal defenses, strategies and remedies vary from case to case. The foregoing description of legal proceedings may not apply to your case. This publication provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest to our clients and friends. The foregoing is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered, and readers should seek legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein.