If you have never been sued before, upon receiving a summons and complaint, panic usually sets in. We often hear from our clients that when they were first served with a lawsuit, their initial instinct was to stick the papers in a drawer and pretend like nothing happened. For some, this reaction was temporary and they accepted the fact that it had to be dealt with. For others, unfortunately, it was just easier to leave the documents in the drawer, rather than deal with the stress of having to figure out what to do next and everything that came with it. But as the old adage goes, “a stitch in time can save nine” should also apply if you are ever sued in Federal or State Court. The last thing you want to do is ignore the lawsuit.
The risk of not taking steps in a timely manner can be catastrophic if you are sued. Generally speaking, you will have 20-30 days (depending on how and when you were served with the lawsuit) to submit either an answer to the lawsuit or file a motion to dismiss the action. What this means as a practical matter is that unless you have a law firm on retainer or a long standing relationship with an attorney, it is likely to take at least 3-5 days if not more to just identify and engage an attorney to defend you in the lawsuit. The attorney you retain will then need time to review and analyze the complaint in order to determine the best course forward. It is also likely that you will need to spend time looking through documents and spend time with your attorney to help prepare a defense for the claim. Thus, it is critical to act quickly as soon as you are served with a lawsuit because it takes time to get your defense set up.
Remember, if you do not take any action in dealing with the lawsuit and your time to submit an answer passes (20-30 days generally), a default judgment could be entered against you in the amount the Complainant is seeking. The judgment can also accrue statutory interest, which compounds year over year. It can be like a noose around your neck. Even if you retain an attorney after your time to timely appear in a case passes, you can damage your defense so much so that even if the plaintiff’s case had no merit, you may not be able to prevail because you lost on the procedure in not having defended the claim in a timely manner. Thus, under no circumstances should you risk having a default judgment entered against you because you did not take action in a timely manner. So before you consider sticking the lawsuit in the drawer too long, consider this and call Outside Legal Counsel LLP.
Disclaimer: Nothing on this website is or should be construed as legal advice. An attorney-client relationship does not exist with our firm unless a signed retainer agreement is executed, and we do not offer legal advice through this site or any of the content located on it. For legal advice for your particular circumstances, please contact us directly.