I’m Being Sued – What Do I Do?
The first thing you need to do when being sued is to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Although you have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit, in order to respond in a way that provides you the most protection, you attorney is going to need some time to analyze the complaint and investigate the claims that have been asserted in the lawsuit.
Second, you need to collect all the relevant information you may have about the person or business suing you. E-mails, letters, and whatever records of communication between both parties should be gathered, otherwise crucial information that might help your case could be overlooked. Your attorney needs to see everything you have, no matter how inconsequential or trivial it may seem.
Lastly, don’t talk to anyone and instruct your employees to do the same. Just like the police tell bad guys on TV, anything you say can and will be used against you in court.
If you have been sued in small claims court, you have several available options:
1. Settle your case before the trial. A lawsuit doesn’t necessarily have to end up in trial; you and the plaintiff can settle the case by coming to an agreement. Your court may have a small claims mediation program that can help, or you can speak to the small claims advisor for information on how to settle the case without going to trial.
2. Prove you were sued in the wrong court. If you think you were sued in the wrong court, let the court know and ask the judge to dismiss the claim if that’s the case.
3. Go to trial and try to win. Make sure you take any witnesses, receipts, or any kind of relevant evidence needed to prove your case.
4. Sue the person suing you. If you believe the plaintiff owes you money, you can countersue by filing a defendant’s claim. Act quickly, though, as there is a deadline for you to do so.
5. Agree with the plaintiff’s claim and pay the money. If you just agree that you owe the plaintiff money, you can pay them and ask them to dismiss the claim. If you cannot pay it all at once, you can go to your trial and ask the judge to let you pay in installments.
6. Do nothing. If you don’t do anything, you will “default.” The plaintiff will probably get what they’re asking for plus any other fees or court costs related to the case. In this scenario, the plaintiff can legally take your money, wages, or property to pay the judgement.
► How to Figure out If You Were Sued in the Wrong Court
The plaintiff can usually sue you in the county where you live or where you do business, but there are also other possibilities depending on the specifics of the claim:
• If you are being sued because of a contract, the plaintiff can sue you in the county where you signed the contract, or where you lived or worked at that time. You can also be sued where the contract was performed or where it was broken.
• If your corporation is being sued, it can be sued where the contract was broken. If the plaintiff says they were hurt, or that their property was damaged, the corporation can be sued where that happened. A corporation can also be sued where its office or business is located.
• If you are being sued because of a car accident, you can be sued in the county where the accident happened, or in the county where you live.
• If the plaintiff (a seller) claims you owe them money for a purchase, you can be sued where you live, where you lived when you made the purchase, where you made the purchase, or where the purchased item is located.
• If you are being sued for purchasing something or paying for a service, you can be sued where you live, where you lived at the time of the purchase or payment, or where you bought or paid for the item or service.
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