How to Respond to a Court Summons

How to respond to a summons

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Mar 22, 2011
How to Respond to a Court Summons
by: DebtCollection

A summons is an official notice that you?ve been sued. The single most important piece of advice I can give you is to not ignore the summons. If you do, you'll not only forfeit your opportunity to defend yourself in court, but also the plaintiff in the lawsuit (whoever sued you) will ask the court for a default judgment against you, and assuming the court grants the request (and it probably will) you'll be ordered to pay the plaintiff a certain amount of money, and the judgment will become part of your credit history, badly damaging it. Also, once the plaintiff has the judgment, it will have various means of collecting on the judgment, like garnishing your wages (a few states don?t allow this), taking money from your bank account, putting liens on your assets, and so on.

You should also know that you must file your response to the summons with the court by the date listed on the summons. And, you must send a copy of your filed response to the plaintiff or the plaintiff's attorney. You may need to file a "proof of service" form with the court.

When you received the summons you should also have received a copy of the plaintiff's complaint. (It may be called something else in your state) The complaint was completed by the plaintiff and it states the facts of the case from the plaintiff's perspective and says what the plaintiff is asking from the court if the plaintiff wins the lawsuit.

In your response (In many states the official name for a response is an Answer.) you have the opportunity to admit or deny whatever the plaintiff has alleged in the complaint and to put forward specific facts in your defense. When you are deciding how best to respond, it's always a good idea to consult with an attorney because the attorney may be able to identify problems or issues with the lawsuit that you have no knowledge of because you are not an attorney, and those problems or issues might help you win the lawsuit or even cause the court to throw out the lawsuit.

An hour of time with a consumer law attorney who helps consumers resolve debt collection problems should not cost a lot -- maybe $150 -- and it will be money well-spent. If you don't have $150 to spend, then find out if there is a Legal Aid office in your area that might be able to help you or call your local bar association to find out if it could refer you to an attorney who might be willing to meet with you for a reduced fee.

If you do not seek legal help, the information you received with the summons should be of some assistance when you are completing your response. Another source of help is the clerk with the court where the lawsuit will be heard.

The important thing now that you have received a summons is to respond to it by the deadline and to follow all of the directions you've received from the court. Don't overlook anything. And again, if at all possible, get legal help. Best of luck!

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