I’m sure that getting served can be one of the most stressful moments of your life. It could even be a TV moment that has come to life and the reality that you are being sued may hit home fast. The first step you should take after being served any legal documents is to read the documents in full beginning with the citation page. The citation page is normally the first page before the motion, petition or pleading that you were served. You should check the citation page as well as the underlying motion, petition or pleading to make sure you are the correct person being sued.
Second, notate the time frame in which you have to respond. A common time frame is the Monday following the expiration of 20 days. However, please read the citation page carefully as a different time frame may be required depending on the type of suit. In order to calculate the due date to respond, you should begin by counting day 1 as the next day after you were served and continue counting through the weekends until you get to day 20. Then, you will move forward to the very next Monday. This is the date your answer is due. If a Monday is the 20th day, you will have until the next Monday to file your written response. Remember, if you have a different time frame listed on the citation page, you will need to calculate your answer deadline based on that time frame.
You should also review the documents to determine if a court hearing has already been scheduled. Some documents will have an actual court date, time and location listed. Since this is the age of Zoom court appearances, there may also be information included about making a virtual appearance by Zoom or other virtual platform.
Once you have had the opportunity to review the citation page and the motion, petition or pleading attached you should contact an attorney to get legal advice regarding your best response to the lawsuit. You should be aware that a proper written response can be very complicated or may be very simple. An attorney is your best ally and resource to protect your legal rights because in some instances the wrong response may have dire consequences for your lawsuit.
An attorney will have the ability to properly analyze and discuss with you jurisdictional issues, venue and possible defects in the motion, petition or pleading. These are just a few areas of note that an attorney may be able to identify issues that might need to be addressed at the same time as your answer filing. Therefore, you will want to make sure that you share the details of your story, relevant facts and any important documents with an attorney.
You should remember that the legal process is multifaceted. If you are served, you should stay calm and seek legal counsel. Once you have located an attorney that you believe will be a good fit for you and your case, invest in retaining him or her to assist you as soon as possible.