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What Should I Do When I Have Been Served With a Lawsuit?

It can be very stressful to be served with a lawsuit whether it be you personally or your business. The complaint should have been served with a summons that gives you instructions on what to do next. The most important action that you will have to take is appearing in the case. Appearing does not mean showing up at the courthouse. In this case you must draft a motion or answer to the complaint. You typically have 30 days to complete this step.
It is important that you act quickly to protect your legal rights and determine if this was an actual lawsuit or just the threat of a lawsuit. There are a lot of legal issues that need to be considered at this crucial step. Although 30 days seems like a lot of time to think things through, you do not want to waste any of that time before consulting with an experienced litigation attorney.

I have had many clients bring me a summons and complaint that they received three weeks ago and ask me to file a timely response to the complaint. Although not impossible it is very difficult to become fully familiar with the facts of the case, do reasonable amount of diligence and inquiry, determine if service was sufficient, draft an answer or motion and file it with court in a few days The first actions to take are:

1. Read the documents – you should review the document and see what is going on. You may not be the target of the lawsuit. You might just be a witness in a proceeding or being told to hold some documents for a case. Take note of any deadlines set forth in the documents. Make sure you understand what you are being directed to do.

2. Collect any information or documents – you are now on notice that a legal proceeding is commencing and you want to ensure that the evidence and information is not destroyed. Think through any important dates, messages, email etc. Write down some personal notes to help you remember important information. Keep this information for your attorney. Do not give information out without consulting your attorney.

3. Obey the order – make sure you comply with any orders issued by the court.

4. Contact your attorney as soon as possible – the one thing that is for sure is that you are now involved in a legal proceeding. Protecting your rights start from the moment you were served. The longer you wait to discuss your options with your attorney is potentially a loss of options you have going forward.

Fowler Law PLLC has placed the information on this website as a service to the general public. Use of this website does not in any manner constitute an attorney‐client relationship between Fowler Law PLLC and the user. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for the particularized advice of your own counsel. Anyone seeking specific legal advice or assistance should retain an attorney.This website could include inaccuracies or typographical errors. The materials on this website do notconstitute legal advice, do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Fowler Law PLLC or any of its employees, and are not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up‐to‐date.The articles and information on this website are provided as is without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, or non‐infringement.

About Me

Mark L. Fowler is an Olympia, Washington attorney practicing Real Estate, Business and Bankruptcy law.

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Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.