Can't be too sure, but the two scenarios that would be underway if the papers were coming from my firm would be:
1. The starting of a lawsuit; or
2. The need for her to be a witness.
If it is the first one, the key is that as soon as the papers arrive, you forward them to your insurer(s) and demand that they represent and defend her. It sounds like a silly requirement given that the insurance company probably already knows all about it, but it is super important. Many folks don't know that they need to do this and insurance companies do look to take advantage of their clients by leaving them exposed.
Marc C. Lenahan
Lenahan Law, P.L.L.C.
One of the best things about our legal system is that it is not secret. When a legal action is filed, persons whose personal or property rights are affected are entitled to official notice of that legal action. This is part of our "due-process" rights under our Constitution. Another right is the ability to compel a witness to testify. In the first instance, a deputy could be serving a copy of the complaint and summons on your mother, the defendant. In the second, a deputy could be delivering a subpoena.
Best wishes for a favorable outcome, and please remember to designate a best answer.
This answer is offered as a public service for general information only and may not be relied upon as legal advice.
Without reading the papers, it is impossible to determine "what's going on." "Civil papers" takes in a very great deal of territory. One possibility is that someone is suing your mom. If so, the papers will clearly so state. If she is, indeed, being sued, she should consult a lawyer immediately to avoid potentially serious consequences. Also, if there is any chance that the claim being asserted is covered by any form of liability insurance, she should immediately notify any and all insurers whose insurance policies might afford coverage for the underlying claim, as the other lawyer who responded wisely advised.