I've just been served: Answering a civil motion, petition, or complaint?

October 22, 2021 - Categories: Legal Articles

You just found out that you’re being sued! It seems like the end of the world, but with proper representation it doesn’t have to be. The first step in dealing with a lawsuit is confronting what needs to be done first. Often, the first step in defending a lawsuit is answering it. 

Aside from the contents of your answer, one of the most important things to remember is that when you’re served you are on timeline. Typically, in Florida if you’re served with a petition you have twenty days to respond, not including the day that you’re served. 

It is very important to respond within the time allotted to you, typically 20 days, so that you’re not in default of the court. When you’re in default of the court, you can have a case decided for you or even have a money judgment issued against you. Looking for an attorney is not an excuse for surpassing the 20-day time limit given by the court, so you must act fast.

Depending on what kind of lawsuit you’re presented with, you will need to ensure that you have preserved your rights in your answer. For example, in a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, i.e. a divorce, you need to ensure that all the counterpoints you would like the court to consider are included in your answer. 

Once you have prepared an answer, it will need to file in the same county in which the suit originated. The petition or the complaint often lists the county in which the suit was filed on the top of the paper. So, if the suit was filed in Orange County, Florida, then you need to file an answer in Orange County, Florida. Varying by county, you can often mail your answer, e-file it through the county or sometimes it needs to be hand delivered to the courthouse in such county. If you were to hire an attorney, then the attorney would file such answer through their account on an e-portal to the court. As a result, you would not need to work or struggle with this process. 

Once you have filed your answer with the court it is extremely important that the opposing party in the case is served with such response. Service too can come in numerous different forms. Depending on the party, service can be completed through US Regular Mail, email, or again the e-portal. Such service depends on the type of filing and the current pleadings within the case. Again, an experienced attorney can easily decipher the difference and take care of this step with little to no aggravation to yourself.

Now that you have conquered the first step of your lawsuit, what is next? With the help of an experienced lawyer, you will be able to better weigh your options. For example, would it be best to offer to settle a lawsuit or should you litigate it to the fullest extent? This all depends on the case and the facts that accompany it. Often an attorney will inform you whether mediation, settlement offers or possibly moving towards a trial is the correct step in your case. The Court in your county is often not able to give information of this nature of non-attorneys are not able to give our legal advice. Without an attorney on your side, you might be left to figure these steps out on your own and sometimes making the wrong choice can be extremely damaging to your case. As a result, it is important to seek the help of an attorney as soon as you’re served. 

Access Legal Care is a law firm that is able to easily and effectively assist you in responding properly to your case. Additionally, due to the unique structure of our firm, we are able to work with you based on your current economic situation. Reach out today for help in defending yourself against the unknowns of a lawsuit. 

Key Questions to Answer:
Question: When did you receive summons and complaint?
Importance: Need to know when served, so we can determine when an Answer must be filed and served by.

Question: How did you receive the summons and complaint? (1st class mail, certified mail, in-person, etc?)
Importance: This will also determine the deadline for filing an answer. If served by certified mail, the person may have more time to file an answer.

Question: Do you live in the state in which the lawsuit was filed, i.e. were you served in another state?
Importance: If served in another state than the original, you may have more time to file an answer.

Question: Is there more than one Defendant (you)? Is your spouse, your company, your roommate, your co-tenant, or another person also being sued with you?
Importance: We need to know if we are representing only one Defendant, or two or more Defendants. Each Defendant will require an individual separate answer to be filed, and the answers may not be identical for each person. This will affect costs and complexity.

Question:  How many allegations are there in the complaint?
Importance: If this is a complaint with 8 allegations, as opposed to a complaint with 108 allegations, the number of allegations helps us determine how complex the case may be, how time-consuming it may be to write an answer and affirmative defenses to the complaint, etc. This will affect pricing. 

Question: What is the remedy and/or the damages that the Plaintiff is requesting in the complaint? i.e. Are they asking for money damages; if so, how much?  Are they asking for equitable remedies, such as that you must take down a fence? Are they asking for divorce, custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support? 
Importance: Helps us to advise what is the best legal solution. For example, if the damages requested are $1,000, then we might recommend not hiring even one of our affordable lawyers, because the costs are not worth it. 

Question: In general, do you agree with most or all of the allegations? Which do you disagree with? 
Importance: If the prospective client actually agrees with the allegations (for example: yes, the debt is mine, yes I owe it, yes it is $5,000, but I just don’t have the money to pay it), then that affects our affirmative defenses and improves our prospects for coming up with an agreeable settlement. If we can come to a settlement, then the case will cost less. If, on the other hand, the prospective client significantly disagrees with one or more allegations, and the stakes are high, then that will increase the chances of the case going all the way to trial, which will affect our strategy, pricing, etc. 

Do you or a loved one need to speak with an attorney for free legal advice? Do you need affordable legal services to help you with the above topic, or with any other legal service? Access Legal Care Law Firm can help.

Access Legal Care is an award winning law firm serving multiple U.S. states with a network of licensed & experienced local attorneys and team members who are dedicated to providing individuals, small businesses, and non-profits with free legal consultations and affordable legal help for their most common legal needs. Savings are as much as 40-50% less-expensive compared to typically-priced attorneys and law firms. 

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