Our daily life activities, business dealings, relationships, and the discharge of professional duties can expose us to several legal battles. It is estimated that the average American has a 10 percent probability of getting sued. This can be for a criminal or civil offense.
A civil case is normally a dispute between two or more individuals or an individual and a company. For example, a patient dissatisfied with a medical procedure can sue the healthcare provider or facility for medical malpractice. Such a case will be tried in a civil court or through internal mechanisms if both parties agree. If you have such a case and the court process is the only resolution option, visit the healthcare-focused law firm at nicholsoneastin.com, for advice. You can also have competent and experienced legal representation for your case.
On the other hand, a criminal case is an offense against the state. Criminal cases are grouped into felonies and misdemeanors, and each comes with a minimum and maximum sentence. Examples of criminal cases include murder, traffic offense, rape, DUI, assault, and battery cases among others. The government/state files for criminal cases and it’s handled by a prosecution attorney.
Let’s focus on civil suits. Here are things to do when you are sued.
In a civil suit, the person suing is a plaintiff and the one sued is the defendant. After being served a lawsuit, you should:
Check the deadline to respond
Every lawsuit comes with instructions including when the defendant must respond to claims made by the plaintiff. You wouldn’t want to miss this deadline to face a contempt charge, so pay a critical look at it. Most importantly, paying attention to the deadline helps you to protect and exercise your legal rights. If you don’t respond by end of the deadline, the court may be forced to give the plaintiff a default judgment.
Try an alternative dispute resolution process
Not all cases must go through the court process. Some can be resolved out of court through an alternative dispute resolution process. Even if the aggrieved person files a lawsuit, you can reach out for the case to the withdrawn from the court. The two parties can then negotiate a settlement agreement with both having witnesses present. The agreed settlement can therefore be put on paper and signed by the parties and witnesses. This resolution process will save both the plaintiff and defendant from the lengthy court procedure and the cost involved.
Look for an attorney
If your pursuit of an out-of-court settlement fails, you may need to start searching for a competent and experienced attorney. How to choose the right lawyer for your case can be challenging if you don’t know where to start. Firstly, you need to know the type of case and your legal situation. Is it a family case, real estate litigation, contractual issue, defamation, negligence, etc.? Once you know the type of case, look for a specialist lawyer. Your search can be through recommendations from family and friends, an internet search, or in-person visits to law firms around your locality.
The attorney you choose must be interested in your case, have good communication skills, competent, and have years of experience.
Prepare for court
Though it is critical to hire an attorney to represent you in court, you can also decide to represent yourself. Whichever option you go for, you need to prepare for the case. If you hire an attorney, corporate with him/her in the best way possible. Be factual and truthful with your side of the story. If possible, support all claims with available documents.
For example, in a breach of contract suit, furnish your attorney with a copy of the original contract, and other supporting documents. This helps your attorney to prepare adequately and come up with the best defense strategy to help your case. The same procedure goes for people representing themselves.
File your defense response
Every lawsuit comes with a plaintiff making certain claims with which they pray to the court uses to rule in their favor. As a defendant, you need to file a response to counter the claims by answering the plaintiff’s questions or allegations.
The response can take several forms including filing a motion to dismiss the case or for the plaintiff to provide better particulars. You can ask a court to demise a case on the following premise.
- Lack of jurisdiction
- Lack of locus standi
- Insufficient evidence
If you take such a stand, the court will have to sit on the dismissal motion first before going into the substantial case.
However, filing a response is not always about countering the plaintiff’s claims. If you are guilty of the charges, you can just enter a plea. If you have a lawyer, he/she will help file an appropriate response on your behalf.
Another option is to do nothing. That‘s you can decide not to file a response. This is especially done when the accused knows they are guilty of all charges. With this, the plaintiff can go for a default ruling.
Filing a response means you have fully entered the case and the legal battle can continue. The court will now set a date for subsequent hearings.