How to Defend Yourself against a Lawsuit

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How to Defend Yourself against a Lawsuit

If you have been served with a lawsuit, you should take action immediately to defend yourself. Depending on the circumstances of your case, it is almost always best to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

By acting quickly, you will have the best chance of protecting your rights. Depending on the legal issues involved, you may have 30 days or less from the time you were served to take action.

What Are My Options?

While your options will depend on your state and county’s laws and the type of lawsuit or court, in general, your options include:

  1. Motion to Quash Service of Summons
  2. Motion to Strike
  3. Answer
  4. Cross-complaint or Cross-claim
  5. Demurrer
  6. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
  7. Default

Usually, you will do more than one of the above options. For example, you may file both a cross-complaint and an answer. But what do these terms mean? Read below to find out.

Motion to Quash: If you were not properly served, your first line of defense is a motion to quash. If the court grants your motion, the service will be rendered ineffective. But because the plaintiff can usually serve you again after a successful motion to quash, it is not always a practical solution.

Motion to Strike: If a complaint is procedurally defective, a motion to strike can attack the entire complaint. It can also cut out irrelevant allegations that are not essential to the claims.

Answer: An answer allows you to challenge the plaintiff’s claims. It asserts your denials and defenses that you would prove at trial (known as "affirmative defenses").

There are special rules about what you must include in the answer and how to format it. If your answer does not deny an allegation or raise an applicable affirmative defense, you risk losing on those issues. Consulting with an attorney can ensure that you protect your defenses.

Cross-complaint or Cross-claim: A cross-complaint (or cross-claim) is a complaint filed by the defendant against the plaintiff or another person. If you have been sued, discussing your case with an attorney can help you discover if you have any claims.

Demurrer: A demurrer challenges the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Because a demurrer is based on legal arguments, you should consider seeking the advice of an attorney before attempting this option. You must file a demurrer before an answer.

Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings: A motion for judgment on the pleadings is like a demurrer, but it can be made after the deadline to file a demurrer has expired.

Default: If you do not take action to defend yourself, the plaintiff may apply for default. If the court enters default, you cannot dispute the plaintiff’s claims unless you persuade the court to set aside the default or appeal the default judgment.

Should I Seek an Experienced Attorney?

If you have been sued, it is almost always best to contact an attorney to ensure that you get the best defense.

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Last Modified: 04-25-2014 10:28 AM PDT

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