The first thing you need to do if and when you get sued is file an Answer. The summons will tell you that you must “appear” by way of an Answer in 10, 20 or 30 days, “depending on the method of service.”
PLEASE CHECK THE LAW IN YOUR STATE AS YOU MAY ACTUALLY HAVE TO APPEAR IN COURT, AS IN VIRGINIA, IN ORDER TO AVOID A DEFAULT!
You need a lawyer, but if you cannot afford one right away, rather then do nothing and have a judgment entered against you, is to “appear” by filing something!
Many people think this means they have to go to Court and this is incorrect. 90% of all lawsuits end in Default Judgments because the defendant (person getting sued) did not file an Answer.
I recommend you go to the free form I have on my website. Print it out and fill it out as instructed. You must answer the numbered paragraphs on the Complaint by writing them into the appropriate lines in the Answer. The Answer will allow you to preserve your rights and will prohibit a default judgment (i.e. you did not show up) from being entered against you.
Mimic the paperwork you got when you got sued. Answer all the paragraphs of the Complaint by writing the numbers in lines 1, 2 or 3.
Almost 100% of attorneys will deny what is owed because they did not do the calculations and do not know what the basis for the number is…
When you file the Answer that is your “not guilty”. You have the right to make the person suing you (Plaintiff) prove their case, but you must also answer the complaint truthfully.
Make sure you fill in the name and address of the attorney suing you before you bring this paperwork to the Court. Mail it to the attorney suing you right away!
Check out the guide I have drafted on the Avvo profile. This will provide more detailed instructions. If it is helpful remember to indicate that and get the guide read!
Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted in the States of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts only and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to those three States. This advice is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation. Facts and laws change and these possible changes will affect the advice provided here. Consult an attorney in your locale before you act on any of this advice. You should not rely on this advice alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney client relationship. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author only and the fact that he has worked as an Assistant District Attorney; State Supreme Court Clerk; Special Assistant United States Attorney (Hawaii); Assistant Cornell University Counsel or Judge Advocate, United States Marine Corps should not be relied upon to assume that these statements reflect the policy of these organizations.
Yes, you can countersue, but be certain that you do this within the time period for the answer.
If you have received court papers, you should not ignore them. Failing to respond within the allotted time will result in a default judgment.
Always answer the summons within the time required. When you are served with a law suit, the papers will tell you what the time period is in order to respond. Without this response, the party that brought the suit can apply for a default judgment against you and will also pile on attorney fees and costs.
If you have any doubt how to answer the legal papers, here are some options:
(1) Go to the court clerk's office and ask for help. Court clerks may not give legal advice and so you should not rely on the clerk’s office to tell you what to say in response to the legal allegation, or how to defend yourself. However, they may be able to assist in providing various forms or explaining the time deadlines.
(2) Retain an attorney. This is the best option because an attorney understands the meaning of the language in the complaint and understands what valid defenses you have.
(3) If you can not afford an attorney, call the state or county bar association and ask for a low fee or no fee referral.
Beyond answering the legal papers, civil court rules also allow you to send discovery to the people who have sued you, requiring them to answer questions and to provide documents. This can only be done if you answer in a timely fashion, and should really only be done by an attorney.
I truly wish you the best.
This answer is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided in an office consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction, with experience in the area of law in which your concern lies.