February 5, 2021
The JUSTLAW Team

So, you have been Legally Served – Now what?

If you have been served with legal papers/documents, you must take immediate action in order to effectively respond to the legal action brought against you. There are not only a variety of types of legal papers that you can be served with, but also a variety of responses you can offer. Thus, this article will highlight basic routes you can pursue after having been served.

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In what Manner were the Legal Papers Delivered?

Generally, there are three types of ways to be served:

  1. Sheriff/Process Server
  2. Mail
  3. Publication

In the event that you find yourself having been served in the first two scenarios, do not avoid service. You should not refuse to sign either. Doing so will not stop any lawsuit against you. In addition, swift response to such service is vital towards defending yourself in front of a court of law.

What Type of Papers were Served?

There are three types of legal papers that could be served upon you in order to procure your presence in a court of law.

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1) Notice of Hearing

If you receive a notice of a hearing, you will need to take immediate action. In most scenarios regarding a notice of hearing, you will be walking into an injunctionor restraining order.

2) Summons and Complaint

If you receive a summons and complaint, you have been legally sued in a court of law. You must give special attention to the complaint. This is a compilation of all the legal claims that the party suing you has made against you. Immediately talk to your lawyer upon receiving such legal papers. Swift action is needed in order to respond to the particular complaint and make any necessary counterclaims.

3) Subpoena

If you receive a subpoena, you most likely are not being sued. However, you may still find yourself in a court of law. Subpoenas are regularly used to require the presence of witnesses in court in order to testify. Immediately taking action in response to a subpoena is vital. You have a short time frame to respond in order to narrow information that you provide in your testimony and apply for expenses used to get to and from the court.

Who may be Served?

This may come as a surprise to you, but you are not the only person that can be legally served if the legal papers only pertain to you. Beyond getting personally served, someone at your residence may accept service for you. They must, however, be an adult (above the age of 18). In addition, in some instances where your business is getting sued, you or any of your employees may be legally served. The employee must have personal knowledge of the particular action portrayed in the legal papers in order to be legally served on the business’s behalf.

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How Long do you have to Respond?

1) Notice of Hearing 

The occurrence of a hearing is generally very soon after service has been rendered upon you. Thus, immediate action is needed. However, do not rush into the hearing without speaking with your lawyerin order to assess your options.

2) Summons & Complaint

Under federal law and in federal court, if you are served with a summons and complaint, you have 21 days to respond. The 21 days commence once you are effectively served. Please be aware that state laws differ on the response time. In California, for example, you have 30 days to respond to a summons and complaint. Contrary to California, in New York you have 20 days to respond to a summons and complaint. Luckily, JUSTLAWhas attorneys in every state to advise you on responding to a summons and complaint. 

3) Subpoenas

Most subpoenas will explicitly state the date as to which you must respond. Thoroughly read over the subpoena in order to assess the time frame.

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If you are reading this article because you have been served with legal papers, please take immediate action. Start by contacting a lawyer here at JUSTLAWto assess your options!