When you find out that you are being sued, the feeling is akin to discovering that you owe $30,000 in credit card debt – there isn’t much you can do about it. Be prepared for obnoxious lawyers, cold court rooms, astronomical bills, headaches, long days and even longer nights. Being sued can wreak havoc on a person’s life, but if you know what you’re doing, the process with go much more smoothly. Here’s what you need to know about being on the receiving end of a lawsuit.
What You Should Know When You’re Being Sued: You Will Get Served
Many people operate under the delusion that if you don’t accept the papers for a lawsuit, then you haven’t been served. In reality, however, the process server only has to find you and give you those dreaded papers; if you run away or drop them on the ground, you’re still considered “served”.
What You Should Know When You’re Being Sued: 50/50 Chance
As of 2004, the percentages of wins and losses in civil courts were about equal, so your chances of having to pay the plaintiff are about 50/50. Don’t count on the case being thrown out on a technicality; prepare yourself to defend your case, or hire a lawyer to do it for you.
What You Should Know When You’re Being Sued: Judgments Aren’t All Bad
According to recent statistics, the amount of money offered to plaintiffs in state civil suits is steadily shrinking. In the late nineties, the median judgment amount was $37,000, which is about half of what it was ten years ago. Take heart!
What You Should Know When You’re Being Sued: Get Your Stuff Together
Less than 5% of all civil suits that are filed ever see the inside of a courtroom. That means that defendants who are diligent about collecting evidence and suggesting arbitration are must more likely to stymie the litigation proceedings. You or your lawyer should be ready to fight it from the very beginning.
What You Should Know When You’re Being Sued: Be Careful What You Sign
You’ll likely be handed scores of sheets of paperwork to sign, and you might be tempted to stop reading the documents before you place your John Hancock on the dotted line. Be careful, however, not to waive your right to a jury trial. If you do, then you’ll be placed at the mercy of a judge.
What You Should Know When You’re Being Sued: Reasons for Civil Suits
Only five types of lawsuits make up 70% of all that are filed: breaches of contract; personal injury, property disputes; estate disputes; and family disputes.
What You Should Know When You’re Being Sued: Hearsay
Remember when you are collecting your witnesses that they can only testify in court to actions or conversations that they heard or saw. If your sister’s cousin’s niece’s friend heard the plaintiff say you weren’t responsible, it won’t be admissible in court. The only exceptions to this rule are character and expert witnesses.
What You Should Know When You’re Being Sued: Be Careful with Countersuits
For the most part, civil cases are about “principle” rather than economics. In other words, a large corporation doesn’t sue a customer because they need the money, but because they feel that their rights have been violated, and they are seeking vindication. Similarly, countersuits are filed on principle even more frequently, which can equal more than vindication. To have your attorney not only defend you against the lawsuit, but also to research and form a countersuit will cost you thousands more in attorney fees. Resist the urge to file a countersuit unless you have strong grounds for recovery.
What You Should Know When You’re Being Sued: Relieve Stress Before Court
Judges during civil court proceedings don’t take well to angry outbursts, and even though you might be frustrated and insulted, you should find a way to relieve stress before your big day. Meditate, play a round of golf, or read a good book. Anything to keep you calm for court.