What to Do When You've Been Sued

The only way most people see the inside of a courtroom is when they are on jury duty, to defend themselves over a speeding ticket, or even to get their marriage license. Unfortunately, some people are eventually confronted with three of the most dreaded words in the English language - "You've been served."

Once you find out you're being sued, there are actions you can take which will make your life much more pleasant and the process of defending yourself much less overwhelming. Here are a few steps you can take.

Act Quickly

Active lawsuits have strict deadlines, and you'll pay a heavy price for not adhering to them. Once you've been served, begin mapping out everything you have to do to ensure that you don't forget anything. Also, gather all of the documents that may be relevant to your case. This organization will make it easier to ...

Maintain Some Perspective

When you first find out you're being sued, you will most likely feel anxious, nervous, and upset. That's perfectly understandable and, frankly, is perfectly human. Even small lawsuits can be pretty emotionally taxing. However, as human as it may be to be upset, it's crucial that you maintain some perspective on the situation.

Don't let your imagination run wild and flood your mind with images of wages being garnished for life, losing your home, going to prison, or your family and friends refusing to take your calls. Even if your lawsuit doesn't turn out in your favor, it won't be as bad as the worst-case scenarios in your mind might lead you to believe.

Find a Lawyer

Depending on how much you're being sued for, it may or may not be worth hiring an attorney to take your case. For most lawsuits being dealt with in small claims court, you're probably better off dealing with it yourself. For anything bigger, it's generally wise to consult a lawyer to defend you and walk through the process with you.

With thousands of potential lawyers online and in your city, it can be difficult to know who to hire. Talk to people you trust and do some research online, and you're bound to find an experienced lawyer to work with.

Learn the Laws that Relate to Your Case

Gaining some knowledge about the laws that pertain to your case is vital in small claims court. In fact, most judges don't appreciate an unrepresented individual (also known as pro se, which means someone without a lawyer) coming to court and being ignorant about the law. Even if you hire a lawyer, it never hurts to be as knowledgeable as possible about the laws and the rules of small claims court.

Let the Facts Speak for Themselves

Your only job is to tell a judge your story and let them decide who's right and who's wrong. Express the facts clearly and concisely, as if you're talking to someone you know and trust about what happened. Of course, having documentation, pictures, emails, or other evidence to support your case is another way to present your case in a way that increases your chances of coming away with a favorable outcome.

Realize that You Probably Won't Ever End Up in Court

Regardless of the size of the lawsuit against you, it's important to understand that the odds of ever having to go to court are slim. The legal process is slow, particularly when it comes to civil cases, which often take years to make their way into a courtroom. This fact alone makes civil suits difficult for both sides, making it a good idea to ...

Consider Settling

Most plaintiffs don't want to be stuck paying legal fees for an extended period of time. Because of this, your attorney may very well convince them to drop their lawsuit. If the plaintiff refuses to drop their claim, you'll likely be faced with the decision to either settle or go to trial. This is where a lawyer can play a big role, as a good lawyer can mean the difference between you reaching a reasonable settlement and you losing your shirt.

Prepare for Trial

After all of this talk about how civil suits are usually settled out of court, this may sound a little counterintuitive. But, if you've been sued, it's best to get prepared as if you are going to trial. Plan on spending some time working with your lawyer to organize your case, scheduling this time just as you would other major obligations.

In Conclusion

Being served with a lawsuit is one of the most aggravating, unsettling events that someone can experience, which anyone who has been through it can attest to, but it doesn't have to be devastating. In fact, don't let it be. It's okay to be upset. The most important thing is to maintain your composure and focus on dealing with the things you can control.

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