H.P. Lovecraft once said "[t]he oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." Being served with a lawsuit is often a shocking and frightening experience; but, if you arm yourself with knowledge about the civil legal system, you'll be better equipped to handle the situation appropriately and make the right decisions. Here are 5 things you should know if you've been sued.
1. THE LEGAL SYSTEM RUNS ON DEADLINES.
Almost every legal case will have a set of deadlines throughout the entire life of the case. If you've been sued, the first--and arguably most important--deadline is for your response. The deadline depends on which court you've been sued in (i.e. district, county, justice, etc.) and what type of lawsuit it is. Generally, however, you must respond by 10:00 a.m. on the Monday next after the expiration of twenty days after the date of service. See Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 99. If you're being sued in the justice court, you must respond by the end of the 14th day after the day you were served. See Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 501.1. Again, the response deadline heavily depends on the type of lawsuit and court, so make sure you call my office at 956-516-9044 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as you're served. The sooner you contact me, the sooner we can put together a comprehensive strategy for defending you, your family, and your assets.
2. YOU MUST RESPOND TO A LAWSUIT, OR THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES.
People often believe that if they ignore the problem it will go away. In the case of a lawsuit, ignoring it will only make it worse. If you take a moment to read the first page of your lawsuit papers, you'll notice there is statutorily required language that warns you: "If you or your attorney do not file a written answer [by the deadline], a default judgment may be taken against you." See also Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 99. A default judgment can be generally defined as a judgment entered by the trial court, at the plaintiff's request, based on a defendant's failure to appear and file an answer within the time allowed by law. See Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 107, 238, 239. In other words, if you don't respond or show up, the person who sued you can "win" the lawsuit by default. This is possible because the law sees your failure to respond as an admission of all facts properly pleaded in the plaintiff's petition and a waiver of any affirmative defenses you may have. See Gardner v. U.S. Imaging, 274 S.W.3d 669, 671 (Tex. 2008). Getting "defaulted" is not always the end of the lawsuit, though. If you've failed to respond to a lawsuit or have a default judgment against you, call my office at 956-516-9044 or email me at email@example.com immediately to find out what options you may have.
3. FILING AN "ANSWER" FIRST ISN'T ALWAYS THE RIGHT RESPONSE.
Contrary to popular belief, filing an answer in response to a lawsuit should NOT always be the first thing you do. The order in which you respond to a lawsuit is EXTREMELY important. For example, let's say you live in Laredo, and let's assume the proper venue for a lawsuit is in Laredo; however, you get a lawsuit filed in Amarillo. An objection to improper venue is waived if not made by written motion filed prior to or concurrently with any other plea, pleading or motion except a special appearance motion. See Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 86. That means that if you file an answer before objecting to venue, you can't object to the venue at a later time. So, for the rest of the lawsuit, you and/or I will have to make every single court appearance in Amarillo. That in and of itself is a major loss. Another example is if the court doesn't have jurisdiction over you; a special appearance may be made to object to the jurisdiction of the court, but the special appearance shall be made by sworn motion filed prior to motion to transfer venue or any other plea, pleading or motion. See Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 120a. These are just two examples--there are many factors to consider when deciding how to respond to a lawsuit. If you're unsure about how to respond to a lawsuit, call my office at 956-516-9044 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
4. BEING PREPARED, ORGANIZED, AND COOPERATIVE IS USUALLY THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WINNER AND LOSER.
Abraham Lincoln said, "[g]ive me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." Don't wait until you go to my office to start thinking about the case. From the moment you are served with a lawsuit, you must begin "sharpening the axe." That means reading every single page of the lawsuit and understanding what the lawsuit is about; it means gathering all the documents and pertinent materials related to the lawsuit; and most importantly, it means mentally preparing yourself. Yes, I will be in charge of managing your case, but the results are almost ALWAYS better when the client is prepared, organized, and cooperative. If you're unsure about what you need to prepare for your lawsuit, call my office at 956-516-9044 or email me at email@example.com to get help.
5. YOU WILL NEED AN ATTORNEY.
What do serious medical issues, dental problems, tax audits, and lawsuits have in common? You should NEVER try to handle them yourself. Attorneys are required to obtain an undergraduate degree, a juris doctorate, and have to take a FOUR different exams over the course of three days to get licensed in Texas. We have an extensive understanding of the legal system, a great deal of legal experience, and more ongoing legal training than you think. We WILL make short work of any layperson foolish enough to appear in court without an attorney. DO NOT assume you can just show up and explain your way out of a lawsuit. The matter is very serious, and it requires a serious professional to handle.
Don't wait. Don't hesitate. Don't think twice. If you've been sued, call my office at 956-516-9044 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.
Attorney Christian A. Davila
DISCLAIMER: In this blog, I outline various, common legal issues; however, this IS NOT actual legal advice! In order to get actual legal advice from THE LAW OFFICE OF CHRISTIAN DAVILA, call and meet with Attorney Christian A. Davila at your earliest convenience.
Additionally, no legal relationship will form between any individual and our law office until parties have discussed legal representation and signed off on an agreed contract. To discuss hiring our law office to represent you in a legal matter, call and meet with Attorney Christian A. Davila at your earliest convenience.