As soon as you are served with the Complaint review the summons for the due date of your formal Answer. Make sure you calendar that date and leave plenty of time to make sure you file your Answer with the court on or before that date. No matter how meritorious your defenses are to the allegations of the Complaint, if you do not follow the time rules you might put your defense at risk by filing your Answer late.
Also, it is a best practice not to wait until the last minute to start your Answer process. Make sure to leave plenty of time for you to think things through and get your Answer right. Leave time for typing, mailing and filing, too. Last minute snags can arise which snags you should avoid.
Deny What You Can Admit What You Must
The complaint will have a series of paragraph allegations. Set your Answer to address each paragraph and within each paragraph, prepare to respond to each allegation. You can and should admit things that are true (name, address, place of work etc.....) and can and should deny things that are not true (this will depend upon what is alleged.)
Conclusions statements like Jane Doe acted negligently can and should be denied. Fact statements can and should be admitted or denied consistent with the truth or falsity of the matter.
An example is an allegation that "Jane Doe drove at a high rate of speed immediately at and at the time of the collision of the two vehicles." Based on the truth of course, you, as Jane Doe, can admit that you were driving at the time and place of the collision, but deny the remaining allegations of the alleged speeds and deny being a cause in whole or in part of the collision."
The Complaint should have a prayer for relief. In your small claims Answer, you may establish your denial of relief in the conclusion section of your Answer. Based on the truth of the matter of course, you should deny that the plaintiff is entitled to the relief sought or any relief whatsoever and that you request the matter be dismissed and that the court grants you any other relief allowed under the law.
By making this clear statement of your position in the conclusion of the Answer, you establish a way to protect your rights to the small claims Complaint.
It is a best practice and you might find it helpful to contact an attorney to review your papers to give you specific tips that apply to your situation.
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