If Someone Sues You What Happens – My name is Paul Richard Brown. I’m an attorney with the Beresford Booth Law Firm in Seattle, Washington and the topic of today’s discussion is simply: What do you do when you’re being sued.
Imagine you are at home, relaxing after a hard day at work, and there is a knock at the door. It’s normal. You get up and open the door, and there in front of you is a stranger. This person basically hands you two packets of papers and says, “You’ve been served,” then turns and walks away. You are shocked.
If Someone Sues You What Happens
You look at what you have in your hand and you see this document that you’ve never seen before and your name is on it, but your name is not at the top. Your name is at the bottom of the document and indicates that you are an accused. You have been served. You have been prosecuted. There is a complaint.
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Now, it’s understandable that normal emotions such as shock, anger, dismay, and stress, to name a few, overwhelm you. What are you going to do? You turn to your partner. She or he looks at you and what is it? And my God, I don’t know honey but I think I got sued. Here are those documents.
Naturally, you probably don’t even want to read the documents; and if you look at these documents, you will probably skim over them because your heart is beating so fast that it is almost uncontrollable. So what’s your next step?
Well, you need to hire a lawyer. Yes, I know you don’t want to hear this answer, but this is the answer you have to face. You must hire a lawyer. Now the real question is what type of lawyer do you hire? All joking aside, you hire a good one, but how do you know whether or not you have a good lawyer.
My recommendation will be that you find someone who is passionate. Find someone who cares. Find someone who has empathy for your situation. Find someone who you believe will be your advocate, your champion, someone who will look out for your best interests and decide what to do on your behalf.
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How do you find this person? Him or her, this warrior, this champion. If you’ve ever dealt with lawyers or if you’ve only dealt with lawyers in business transactions, it’s not that simple.
I mean, you know, do you look in the yellow pages or on TV? I think the best recommendation might be to talk to your friends, select someone you can find who is recommended. Find recommendations on who they are, what type of person they are, what their experience is, and then meet them. Examine them. See if this person will indeed be someone who will be your champion; because once you find that person who is your champion, it will help you feel comfortable about what you will face in the months and sometimes years to come.
It’s not like on television. It’s not going to be a situation – unfortunately, like you see in the movies or on television, where in an hour-long episode you have a trial, you have a judgment, you have a resolution of the problem. By the time you finish your popcorn or soda at the movie theater, the case has already been, you know, solved. This impression does not correspond to the reality of American jurisprudence and American litigation. I mean, it’s a little ironic despite all the lawyer jokes we have. We are the most litigious society in the world. More prosecutions than any other country combined. So yes, our society makes fun of lawyers, but we use them a lot. So what do you do then? You have found your lawyer. You have your champion. You have someone you trust. This person should explain the process to you and know what to do when you have this lawsuit. The first recommendation now would be to take a deep breath. Yeah, it’s not going to be fun. It won’t be something you’ll be happy about, but take a deep breath nonetheless. If you remember what I said a few minutes ago, it’s a long process. This doesn’t happen overnight. Things don’t happen immediately. That takes time. Your lawyer should be able to explain this process to you. I’m going to briefly go over, you know, some of the generic situations that you’re going to be looking at so you can ask your attorney these questions to see whether or not they understand and can guide you in a way that makes sense to you. So you have this complaint. This is the document I told you about, which was given to you when you opened the door. At the bottom of this complaint, there is your name, Mr. Defendant. All right. It’s not a good feeling at all, but we have to look into this complaint and respond to these complaints, these allegations that are in these pages. Some paragraphs will be quite simple like, you know, what’s your name or where do you live or where do you work; and you must answer whether or not you admit or deny these things. Causes of Action Then you get to what we call the gist or heart of the complaint, and that’s what we call the causes of action. Causes of action are the legal terms of what is being complained about about you, such as:
This is what you need to review and discuss frankly and in detail with your lawyer about how you will respond. Once you have collected all of these responses, you file what is called a response. This is usually done within 20 to 30 days, depending on the jurisdiction where the case is heard. Counterclaims Also in this response, you will have the opportunity to file what we would call counterclaims or third party claims; and this is where you can review the complaint, evaluate the half-truths, insinuations or allegations and determine whether or not you have the legal right to seek relief not only against the person suing you or someone else. ‘other. responsible. Again, sometimes they need a little creativity and that’s why you need to have that warrior at your disposal, that person who has your answers. So, you file that response and sometimes with the counterclaims or a third-party complaint. The Discovery Phase Then the next process that you will enter into is what is called the Discovery Phase, and again, this is a phase that we don’t see on television, nor in the movies. This is sometimes very long and takes a lot of time. This is where you are asked questions in writing and you ask the questions in writing. These are called interrogatories, and you have document requests that you make and someone has asked you where you have documents related to the trial. These are called production requests. Deposition Then, finally, you have what are called depositions, and this is where you, people connected to the complaint, and witnesses will appear before a court reporter and give sworn testimony that will be recorded. This is called deposition testimony. This process takes some time, sometimes several months or even a year. This could take several years depending on the complexity of the issue. Gathering the Evidence Once all of this is gathered, this gathering is called getting the evidence for the case. Once you have the evidence for the affair, keep this in mind, it didn’t happen immediately. This complaint was served on you a month, two, five, eight or a year ago. You’ve collected all this evidence, now you have to compile it, put it together and really come together and see if you can get through the trial. Now how do you do this? When you take the documents and the testimony, those answers to questions, those interrogatories, you see if you can file a motion that will get you out of the trial. This motion is called a motion for summary judgment. Sometimes this obviously succeeds depending on each case and sometimes unfortunately this is not the case. The Trial Next, the final phase of the case is a trial, and this is the part you see on TV or in the movies. It’s much longer in reality than what we see on television and in the cinema; but nevertheless, this is what happens once you have collected all the documents and everything else. Yes, it takes a long time. Yes, it is expensive; and yes, it takes time and can be very stressful at times. However, if you have that warrior that I spoke of, that person who has your best interests at heart, that person of integrity, you will have a good understanding of every step and every facet of the matter you are facing. Of course, with obviously the uncertainties revealed