“You’ve been sued. You may employ a lawyer.”
While these words may be unfamiliar to some, for those of us who work in the legal field they are all-to-familiar. These are a few of the first words written on a citation with which civil defendants are served when a plaintiff sues them. Shortly after they are served, most people begin to evaluate their options and questions arise. This email addresses some of the more common questions.
Step One: Find a Lawyer Quickly. In Texas, when you or your business is sued in civil court, once you are served, you must file a written answer in the Court in order to avoid a ‘default’ judgment being taken against you (a ‘default’ judgment is akin to a forfeit; if you don’t show up to fight, you may automatically lose). While the time frame to answer can vary (depending on whether the case is in small claims court, county court, or district court), a general rule is that you want to find a lawyer as quickly as possible to prepare and file an answer. If you don’t already have a lawyer, you can easily find one online or by calling the local Bar Association. The general rule-of-thumb I recommend is to hire a lawyer who specializes in your area of trouble if you’re in a larger city, or, find a lawyer with a general practice in a smaller city or rural area. For example, if you are in Dallas and are sued on a real estate matter, you can easily find a lawyer in Dallas who has experience in real estate litigation (and don’t have to find someone who usually practices family law). If, however, you are in Mabank, Texas, it may be difficult to locate someone who practices in one, single area of law so you may be better served by finding someone who practices law generally.
Step Two: Maintain Radio Silence. Don’t call the plaintiff’s lawyer or plaintiff directly to try and resolve the matter. Sometimes, if you do, they’ll try to trick you into signing some document that admits you were legally responsible for what the plaintiff is claiming against you. If presented with any documents from someone else, don’t sign anything. Give the documents to your new lawyer when you first meet. Also, resist the urge to email them, text, or send any communications that can be used against you later.
Step Three: Compile & Organize Information and Documents: In preparation for the first meeting with your new lawyer, you will likely need a few basic things. First, bring copies of any relevant information, documents, correspondence, etc. Second, if applicable, prepare a basic outline of what happened, when, witnesses (with contact information), etc. The more pertinent information you can provide the lawyer, the better. Finally, bluntly, be financially prepared to pay the lawyer or firm’s fee up front (or a deposit against future fees). For a litigation matter, most smart firms will require either a deposit to secure their work (some firms call this a ‘retainer’). While this varies by lawyer and firm, you should simply understand that to hire the lawyer’s services; you will likely need to put up money immediately.
Being sued can be a very troubling, and sometimes life-changing experience. Having the right legal counsel is essential to safeguarding your reputation, fortune, and rights. Our firm routinely helps clients throughout Texas in litigation matters including probate litigation, trust litigation, guardianship litigation, real estate lawsuits, and business lawsuits. If you are being sued or are in need of smart, passionate legal counsel – call us today. We want to help you. We can be reached at (469) 607-4503 or via email@example.com.
ATTORNEY CHRIS PARVIN is Board Certified in Estate Planning & Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Parvin is the Managing Partner of the Dallas, Texas law firm of Parvin Law Group, P.C. and serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Texas A&M University School of Law. Mr. Parvin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parvin Law Group, P.C. is a Concierge Law Firm in Dallas, Texas with attorneys practicing law in the fields of Estate Planning, Probate, Business Law and Family Law.