What to Do If You Miss a Filing Deadline in Civil Court?
I Missed the Deadline, What Can I Do?
If you just missed filing your responsive answer or motion, and the court has not yet sent you an Order of Default, you are not in a bad situation. Start with a phone call to the lawyer named in the complaint and summons. It is very likely you will get his permission to file something, late. But don't miss this agreed deadline, or you won't get any slack, again!
But the Court Sent Me an Order of Default? now What?
This item is your formal notice that you missed a deadline. You have thirty days to file something, in writing, that explains why you missed the deadline. You should also file your answer, or hire a lawyer, at this point. The most important part of your motion to vacate the order of default is a brief statement of your substantive defenses to the claims. The Maryland courts favor you, at this stage, especially if you demonstrate that the case can, and will be defended.
Gee, I Didn't File a Thirty Day Motion to Vacate the Order of Default. What Now?
Well, shame on you! You have lost your chance to contest liability for the claim. For instance, if this is an accident case, you no longer can defend the case by saying "I am not responsible." Because you failed to answer, and the deadlines have passed, you are deemed "responsible." The only issue, now, is how much the case is worth. That means the court will schedule a hearing (sometimes called an "inquisition") to set the amount of the Plaintiff's damages. You will get notice of that hearing, and you may attend and give your own evidence and cross-examine witnesses....but you can't attack your liability.
I Don't like Any of This! how Can I Avoid Such a Mess?
When you are served with any legal process, read it carefully, page-by-page. Mark on your calendar the deadline for your response. And then, make an appointment with a lawyer to discuss your options. Make that appointment, early, so that your lawyer has plenty of time to investigate the facts, research the law, and draft your papers so they get to court in time.
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