How to Answer a Lawsuit

The answer to how to answer a lawsuit may not be at the top of your mind until one day when you’re minding your store as the owner of your business and someone you’ve never seen before walks in and hands you and envelope saying,  “You’ve been served.” You open the envelope and see a summons and a complaint with your company’s name in the spot for “defendant.” You have been sued. Now what? Now you have to find out how to answer a lawsuit.

1. Don’t panic. I’ll give you that getting sued can be a bit scary. But nothing really has happened yet. All that the plaintiff has done has made claims against you, but those claims still have to be proven. Yes, you have a new problem that you should not ignore. Often, how you respond within the first few days could determine the outcome of that lawsuit. But, you’re not completely sunk.

2. Copy the complaint and summons. Go to your copy machine and immediately make a copy or two of the documents. You will want to save the original intact to give to your lawyer but for now you want to have at least one copy to mark up. Go ahead and mark on one of the copies.  Write your thoughts, disagreements, agreements, etc. on one of those extra copies.  Then proceed to the next step in how to answer a lawsuit.

3. Call your lawyer or start looking for one. If you have a lawyer, call him or her that day. If you don’t have a lawyer, you need to start looking for one.  You could start by contacting your accountant and or a trusted advisor and start asking for referrals. However, keep in mind that time is not on your side. You normally only have 20-30 days (depending on where you live and where you were sued) to file a response to that complaint with the court. You also should consider contacting your company’s liability insurance carrier.

4. Send the documents to your lawyer. Assuming you have a lawyer the next step in how to answer a lawsuit is to immediately contact him or her then send the complaint to them upon their request. When you send it to him or her, also send the information on how to contact your company’s insurance agent via fax or email. You or your lawyer should send (or “tender”) the complaint to the insurance agent that day. Don’t stop and read your policy and see if you have coverage or not. Just send it. This is because if your insurance company will pay your legal costs, they may only do it from the date of tender. So, you want to make sure that complaint is tendered right away.

5. Work with your lawyer. To keep your legal bills in check, be attentive to your attorney and make sure they get what they are needing within a reasonable amount of time.  The more they have to pester you or continually request information and documentation from you, the harder and more expensive it will be.  Just keep in mind that that your lawyer is not emotionally charged in this lawsuit and has been down this road before, so allow him or her to help you by doing their job.

If you need assistance in how to answer a lawsuit, Integrated General Counsel can help you determine your next steps.  If you are ready for a results-driven plan of action, contact us either by telephone at (925) 399-1529, schedule yourself into our calendar for an appointment at a time convenient for you, or complete the Contact Kristen form and we will get back to you.

Integrated General Counsel