First thing is to take a deep breath and don’t panic. You need to find out which type of court it is in. This is very important because the type of court in effects how much time you have to respond or answer. Look at the case number on the Summons, usually in the top right hand corner. Look at the letters that the number start with.
- SM – Small Claims Court – you have 14 days from when the Summons was served on you.
- DV – District Court – you have 14 days from when the Summons was served on you.
- CV – Circuit Court – you have 30 days from when the Summons was served on you.
Now you need to find out who sued you and for what. Look at the Complaint or Statement of Claim, do you know who the Plaintiff, the person that sued you? Read the Complaint and the facts that are laid out in the Complaint. Do you know what it is talking about? If it is a collection of a debt, see if you recognize the Plaintiff as a person or company who you owed a debt to. If not it may be a debt collector who bought an old debt from another company.
If it is not a debt collector or dispute over money, put your insurance company on notice immediately. Even if you are not sure the claim is covered by any insurance it is good to check with the insurance company. If this involves a car accident, your automobile policy may cover the defending of the case and the amount of the claims. If this involves something around your house, your homeowner’s insurance may cover the claim. Some homeowner policy has riders on their policies that cover many areas that you would not think is related to owning a house. BUT YOU MUST PUT YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY ON NOTICE OR YOU MAY WAIVE THEIR COVERAGE IN THE CASE.
DO NOT IGNORE THE CASE, you have a limited time to respond. If you do not respond the Plaintiff can get a Default Judgment against you for whatever the amount is that they are claiming. With that Judgment they can garnish your paycheck or bank account.
Gather all of your documents that you have that are related to the claim. Make a list of the ones that you do not have but know are available from other people or companies. Make a list of people that could give statements of personal knowledge about the facts of the case. You will need their names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
You do not have to talk with the Plaintiff or the Plaintiff’s attorney, but if you do remember they may record the conversation and anything you say can be used against you during your case.
Consult with an attorney about your case. It is very important that you have legal representation when going into court.
“No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.”