What to Do If You Are Sued
Being sued can be upsetting and intimidating, but ignoring a court case isn’t going to help you deal with the problem. It will make the problem worse.
When you are sued, you should get served with a summons and complaint. Read them carefully. The person suing you is the plaintiff, and you are the defendant. The plaintiff’s name is at the top of the summons and on the complaint. Read the complaint to find out why you are being sued. Read any other documents that came with the summons and complaint, too.
Don’t panic. Just because someone has sued you does not mean he or she will win.
You have two choices when you are sued. Your first choice is to do nothing. If you do nothing, the plaintiff will probably get whatever is asked for in the complaint. This could be a money judgment, a divorce, a custody order, an eviction, or something else. Your second choice is to answer the complaint. This tells the court your response to the complaint and how you want to resolve the case.
Different kinds of cases have different deadlines for fling an answer.
Your answer is your side of the story.
You respond to each paragraph of the complaint, one by one. Your response to each paragraph should be, “I agree with this paragraph”, “I disagree with this paragraph”, or “I don’t know if this paragraph is true.” If you disagree, say why you disagree.
You can also use your answer to raise defenses. A defense is a good reason the plaintiff should lose the case or not get what is requested in the complaint.
You can also file a counterclaim if the plaintiff harmed you. A counterclaim tells the court you believe the plaintiff owes you money or some other relief. In a divorce case, a counterclaim also lets you continue the case if the plaintiff decides to dismiss it.
Filing an answer, defenses, or counterclaim does not mean the plaintiff’s case will go away. It tells the court your point of view and keeps you actively involved in the case. After your answer is filed, there will be other papers filed and court hearings to attend.
You and the plaintiff can resolve the case through negotiation, mediation, or by trial with a judge or jury. Representing yourself can be difficult. After you read the complaint, you may want to talk to a lawyer about your case before you decide to file your own answer.
For assistance in the Metro Atlanta area, contact: Atlanta Legal Aid Society 404-524-5811
Atlanta Bar Association | Lawyers Who Serve | Lawyer referral & information service 404-521-0777
For assistance outside Metro Atlanta, contact: Georgia Legal Services Program 1-800-498-6469
For more information, visit: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
Thank you to Michigan Legal Help for donating the original content of this video.
Produced by Atlanta Legal Aid Society
Funded by a Technology Initiative Grant from the Legal Services Corporation
Developed by Gab Rich & Kristin Nelson Verrill