How do I know if I have been served with a lawsuit?

If you are wondering whether you have been served with a lawsuit, these paragraphs are for you.

Personally Served

Sometimes, there is nothing at all subtle about getting served with a lawsuit.  Somebody walks up to you and hands you a stack of papers and your name or your company’s name appears conspicuously near the word “defendant”. You have been sued. Putting a finer point to it, you have been “personally” served.  Please note: even if you don’t take the papers into hands and the process server drops the papers at your feet, service is still effective. The date of personal service is critical. Service on you triggers the time table to timely respond to the lawsuit. If you don’t timely respond, you can be defaulted. That’s not good at all.

Served by Substituted Service

There are other ways you can be served with a lawsuit and it’s not as obvious. There is “substituted service.”  That happens when you are away from home.  The process server visits your home and delivers the lawsuit to another adult in your house.  Maybe it’s your wife, your adult son, uncle or whoever. To be effective, the process server must mail the suit to the very same location, first class mail, prepaid. Service of the lawsuit is deemed “completed” after the mailing.  If there’s a lawsuit sitting on the couch or kitchen table, and a copy of it arrives in the mail, you have likely been served with a lawsuit. The all-important clock counting down your deadline to respond is ticking. Get legal advice!

Served by Publication

The most archaic method of service is by publication. After trying to serve you personally many times, the plaintiff asks the court for permission to serve you by publication. That means the legal text of the summons is sent to a newspaper of “general circulation” for publication. The text of the summons is buried in the back of the paper in tiny text in a narrow column that nobody ever reads. In my opinion, the legislature needs to enact an alternative to this ridiculous (and expensive) method.  Regardless, if you see your name in the backwaters of a newspaper near the word “summons,” chances are you have been served with a lawsuit. Your clock is probably ticking away. Again, you must timely respond to avoid default.

We are happy to speak with you or meet with you about any civil litigation you might be facing so that you make a timely response and avoid default.

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