When You're Sued…
By Brian C. Caffrey, Esq.
Being sued is a traumatic experience. Most people live their whole lives without being sued. Yet someone, with a legitimate or illegitimate claim, has challenged you, and is using the legal process to come after you, usually with a view to taking your money. What do you do? What should you do?
Don't delay. — Let me start by telling you what you should avoid doing. First, delay can be fatal. This is because legal procedure runs according to time periods and deadlines. It could not be otherwise. You'll have a period within which to respond. If you don't respond, you could be facing a judgment by default, i.e., resulting from your default -your failure or neglect -to act promptly. And once a default judgment is entered against you, things become tougher, because you're now “on the outside looking in.” Default judgments can be overcome in certain circumstances; but it takes some work. Don't just “give away” your rights by procrastinating.
Don't compromise your position. — In the aftermath of having a deputy sheriff hand you suit papers, you'll be surprised, perhaps shocked, and off balance. Without guidance, this condition will persist. You might want to unburden yourself, even to the person who sued you or that person's attorney. Don't do it. Rarely can any good come from making potentially damaging statements or admissions. You'll only be helping your adversary; and make no mistake: the party on the opposite side of the “v” (for “versus,” or against) is your adversary.
Don't try to settle it on your own. — There's a way to negotiate, to settle a dispute; and there's a way not to do these things. Most matters are, in fact, settled without a trial. However, if you've violated rule number two above by making a damning admission, you have hurt your bargaining position before you even start to negotiate. A lot of what I do consists of negotiating and resolving disputes; and doing so requires the skill and understanding to know how to identify the key issues and what needs to be guarded against that might be lurking down the road.
Do consult a lawyer. — When you're sick, you go to a doctor. Unlike the guy in the TV commercial, you wouldn't operate on yourself. When you're sued, go to a lawyer. I've seen my share of “do-it-yourself” agreements and arrangements that find their way to me eventually; and by then, much damage has often already been done. Will you have to litigate? Could you arbitrate or mediate (methods of “alternative dispute resolution”), instead? Can you negotiate your way out of it? Do you have “a legal leg to stand on”? A lawyer can help you find the answers to these questions. If you've been sued, contact our office. We're very experienced at helping people who've found themselves in exactly the position you're in.
Do call 717 657 7770 for Scaringi Law and speak with one of our attorneys.