Ignoring the situation isn’t going to make it go away, so if you’ve been sued in a lawsuit, WHAT DO YOU DO?

You most likely learned of the lawsuit when you were handed a summons and a copy of the complaint.  The complaint explains what the person initiating the lawsuit wants from you or wants to do.  For instance, this could be for money damages, return of certain property, or other type of relief such as an injunction.

As soon as you receive a summons and complaint, you should read it, and then decide whether you need to hire a lawyer to defend you.  There are a few things to consider, all of which boil down to the seriousness of the lawsuit and the potential outcomes.  If you’re being sued in small claims court or if you’re being sued for just a couple hundred dollars, you may not need to hire a lawyer, but you may still want to consult with one.  If you’re being sued for something more substantial or if it’s something that could put you out of business if you lose, you most likely want an experienced lawyer by your side.

You have a limited number of days to file a response to the lawsuit.  In California you have thirty days to file a response or twenty-one days if the case is in federal court.  If it’s an unlawful detainer (eviction proceeding) you only have 5 days.  Make sure you hire a lawyer in time to prepare your response.

If you fail to respond to the lawsuit in time, the court will rule in favor of the plaintiff.  This could result in a default judgment against you affecting your credit rating.  You could be faced with real property liens, bank levies, or garnishment if a judgment is obtained against you.  Don’t ignore the lawsuit, it’s not going away.