If you are being sued, it is important that you respond to the lawsuit by seeking legal advice, filing any necessary response papers, and showing up in court for any scheduled hearings. The process for responding to a summons that informs you that you have been sued varies by jurisdiction. It is generally true, however, that not responding to a lawsuit can result in a judge finding in favor of the person who is suing you simply because you have not appeared in court.
While it is certainly a very unsettling experience to be served with a lawsuit, pretending that you are not being sued is unlikely to resolve your problems in your favor. As soon as you become aware of a potential lawsuit, even if you have not yet been sued, it is a good idea to seek legal advice. If you cannot afford an attorney of your own, contact a local advocacy group or legal clinic to see if you qualify for free or low-cost services. Even if you are not entitled to free legal representation, the legal aid clinic may be able to provide you with an assessment of your situation and recommendations for how you might want to proceed with your case. It may also be able to provide you with a referral to an attorney who might take your case for free or at a reduced charge.
Your lawsuit summons may contain information on what to do in order to respond to the lawsuit. Read this information carefully, and if necessary contact the courthouse from which the summons was issued in order to clarify what it is you need to do. If you are unable to be in court on the day of your hearing, you may be able to ask the courthouse staff to reschedule your court date. Some courthouses sponsor self-help legal services, either online or at the courthouse itself. You can receive information about court forms, instructions for completing court forms, and in some cases spend a limited amount of time with a volunteer attorney who can help you prepare your case.
If you are forced to represent yourself in court, be sure to bring with you pertinent documentation and any evidence that supports your side of the story. Keep in mind that if you are successfully sued and the court issues a judgment against you, you may be forced to pay a significant amount of money and may risk damage to your credit rating. For this reason, you may wish to attempt to settle the lawsuit before actually going to court. Again, it is usually a good idea to have a lawyer assist you with the settlement process, and it may be cheaper to ask him to negotiate a settlement than actually accompany you to trial.