Civil Lawsuit Defense Information
Hollander and Associates, LLC
One Biscayne Tower, Suite 1650
2 South Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, Florida 33131-1808
Telephone: (305) 373-9999
Toll Free: (800) 966-4041
Telefax: (305) 373-7777
Served with a Lawsuit - What should you do if you have been sued?
No one likes that feeling in the pit of the stomach when served with court papers. You may be wondering what to do when you receive the court papers.
A lawsuit begins when someone, called the "plaintiff" files a document in court, known as a "complaint." The next step is to give you, the "defendant" a copy of the court papers and a copy of a document called a "summons." This is called "service of process," and you may "be served" the papers through the mail, or by personal delivery (such as by a deputy sheriff or other certified process server). The summons tells you how many days you have in which to file your answer or response or what you must do to protect your rights. If you do not file a written answer or response within that time limit or follow the other instructions given, the plaintiff may proceed with the lawsuit anyway. Your failure to respond may be treated by the Court as if the claims in the complaint are correct, and you would be considered in "default." This may mean you have lost your right to defend the lawsuit. You may even have lost any right to be informed of the date and time of later court hearings against you in that case. The usual time limit for responding to a lawsuit complaint is 20 days. The court may extend this time if before the end of the 20 days you ask for and are granted an extension of time, based on a valid reason. The time limit within which to respond to a lawsuit to recover possession of land or a home is 5 days. A response to that kind of lawsuit must, of course, be very prompt. Any response or answer you file must be carefully worded so that all of your defenses may be presented in court. If you have a defense which you do not state in your answer, the court may refuse to allow you to present that defense later at the trial. At the same time that you file your answer, you may wish to file a "counterclaim." A counterclaim is just like a complaint, but it is filed by the defendant against the plaintiff. The same rules for complaints must generally be followed for a counterclaim. The counterclaim will state your reasons why you should recover damages or other relief from the plaintiff. Certain defenses may be good ones but you may not know about them. For example, the plaintiff may have waited too long to file the complaint. The failure to sue within the proper time limit is a valid defense. There may be many other defenses which apply to your case. The best way to make sure that all of your rights are protected is to contact an attorney/lawyer.
Before meeting with your lawyer:
- Gather all information together in a logical order;
- Be sure you have current correct telephone numbers and addresses of interested parties and witnesses, if applicable;
- Prepare a written statement of your problems and what you want done;
- Make photocopies of everything and offer originals or photocopies to your lawyer. Let your lawyer decide if originals or the copies are needed.
During your initial consultation:
- Present an overall view of your position.
- Share all relevant information, let your lawyer decide what is not in your favor. It is much better for your lawyer to know, rather than be surprised later.
For a free consultation, and legal assistance, call (305) 373-9999 for an appointment orcalltoll free 1 (800) 966-4041 for a free out-of-town telephone consultation.