What To Do If You've Been Sued in New Jersey
Review the Summons and Complaint
Upon being served with a lawsuit, carefully review the documents to understand who is suing you, the nature of the allegations, the desired court action, and the response deadline. All of those things should be considered when determining what to do next.
Be mindful of response deadlines. In New Jersey, you generally have 35 days to respond to a complaint by filing an answer. Failure to respond may lead to a default judgment against you.
Preserve Records and Communication
Ensure the preservation of all relevant records, including documents and electronic materials. Suspend any document destruction policy until consulting with your lawyer.
Consider Retaining a New Jersey Attorney
If you are being sued in New Jersey, you should strongly consider retaining an experienced New Jersey attorney who is knowledgeable about the area of law in which you have been sued. The benefits of hiring experienced legal counsel are many. They include:
Legal Knowledge and Expertise. Experienced attorneys have a deep understanding of the law, legal procedures, and relevant precedents. They can apply this knowledge strategically to build a strong case or defend against one.
Case Assessment. A seasoned litigation attorney can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case, providing a realistic assessment of the potential outcomes. This helps in making informed decisions about settlement options or trial strategies.
Strategic Planning. Experienced attorneys can develop effective strategies tailored to your specific case. They understand how to navigate the legal system, anticipate opposing arguments, and plan accordingly. The can also help adapt and adjust your legal strategies based on developments in the case, ensuring the best possible approach at each stage of the litigation.
Negotiation Skills. Many cases are resolved through negotiation rather than trial. Experienced litigators often have strong negotiation skills to reach favorable settlements for their clients.
Courtroom Experience. If your case goes to trial, an experienced litigator will be familiar with courtroom procedures, rules of evidence, and the dynamics of presenting a case to a judge or jury. This experience is crucial for effective advocacy in court.
Resource Management. Seasoned attorneys often have access to a network of professionals, such as investigators, expert witnesses, and consultants. This can enhance the strength of your case by bringing in specialized expertise when needed.
Documentation and Legal Compliance. An experienced attorney can ensure that all necessary legal documents are prepared accurately and filed on time. They also help ensure that your actions comply with relevant laws and regulations.
Stress Reduction. Dealing with legal matters can be emotionally taxing. Having an experienced attorney by your side can alleviate some of the stress by handling the legal complexities, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your life or business.
Avoid Direct Communication
If retaining legal counsel or in the process of deciding, refrain from communicating directly with the plaintiff or their attorney. Using an attorney for communications protects your legal rights and reduces the risk of compromising your position inadvertently.
Determine If You Have Insurance Coverage
Check if you have insurance coverage that may cover the claims against you or provide for your legal defense. Contact your insurance provider promptly, as policies often require immediate notification of claims.
Evaluate Your Options
After being served with a complaint, you have several options. An attorney can guide you in evaluating and pursuing these options, which commonly include:
Negotiating a Settlement. Engage in discussions with the plaintiff at any point during the case to resolve the dispute. However, be mindful of the response deadline for filing with the court, as negotiations do not pause the countdown.
Filing an Answer. Filing an answer is a conventional method of responding to a lawsuit. It provides an opportunity to address the complaint's factual allegations and legal claims. Additionally, you can assert "affirmative defenses," presenting facts or legal arguments to counter the plaintiff's claims. This action prevents the plaintiff from obtaining a default judgment and signals your intent to defend the case.
Filing a Motion to Dismiss or a Motion for a More Definite Statement. Consider filing a motion to dismiss, citing reasons such as lack of jurisdiction, insufficient service of process, or failure to state a legal claim. This motion postpones the need to file an answer until the judge makes a decision. If granted, the case is dismissed; if denied, you must proceed with filing an answer. A motion for a more definite statement, akin to a motion to dismiss, delays the answer deadline and is utilized when the plaintiff's complaint lacks clarity for a proper response.
Not Doing Anything. Choosing not to respond within the stipulated time may lead to the court entering a default judgment, declaring the suing party the victor. This results in obligations such as monetary payments or other relief measures. Subsequently, the plaintiff may initiate collection processes, such as wage garnishment or bank levies.
Schedule a Consult with an Attorney
You should consider seeking out an experienced New Jersey lawyer to evaluate your options, identify applicable defenses, and potentially settle the case outside of court. An attorney can guide you through the legal complexities and protect your interests. The litigation attorneys at Kemeny, Ramp & Renaud, LLC are available to assist you. Call us at (732) 853-1725 to schedule a consultation.