What Should You Do If You Are Served With a Complaint?
Being served with a complaint can be a daunting experience. You might feel like you're in over your head, and you don't know where to turn. In this video, I will explain what to do if you or your business are served with a Complaint.
Hi, and thanks for joining me. My name is Peter Lamont. I'm an attorney here in New Jersey. And in today's video, we're going to talk about what you should do. If you get served with a complaint now, just to give you some background, a complaint is the legal document that the party who is suing another party files with the court, the party that's filing, it's called the plaintiff. So the plaintiff files a complaint with the appropriate court. And then that complaint ultimately gets served on the defendant. Now there are different courts, different court rules, but the process is always the same. The complaint get filed, and then ultimately get served here in New Jersey. If you were to file a special civil court proceeding, the court itself will mail out the summons and complaint to the defendant and let them know of their timeframe to respond. But in the superior court, you have to hire a process server or sheriff to physically take the filed complaint and hand, deliver it or serve it on the defendant.
But we're not gonna talk about service today. We're gonna talk about what you should do if either your business or you personally get served with a complaint. Now we told you that a complaint is the document, the start of a lawsuit. When you get served with a complaint, the first thing you need to do is hire a lawyer. Now I know that sounds like a sales pitch, but it's not. It's really for your own benefit. Let's talk first about if you are a business, if you are a business, most states include to New York, New Jersey, Florida have a rule in place where you are prohibited. You cannot represent your business in a lawsuit, a business, or an LLC, an incorporated entity must be represented by a lawyer. The, the courts just simply will not allow you to act as your own lawyer on behalf of your company.
That's called pro se representation. And despite the fact that you might be able to represent yourself personally, in a lawsuit, you cannot represent a business. And in fact, the court will order that you obtain an attorney to defend you. Now, if you're an individual, you, you could technically represent yourself, but you shouldn't. No, let's just take a step back and look at when you might want to consider representing yourself. I'm still gonna stick with never, but there are times when maybe the case is not valued at much. Let's, let's say that your roommate sues you for hundred and $50, and you don't think that you have to pay that $250. It clearly is not worth your time or money. Hiring an attorney when the damages are $250, honestly, you'd be better off just trying to settle that case and not spend the money on a lawyer or waste your own time trying to defend it.
But that's neither here nor there nine times outta 10, if a case is valued over 1500 or $2,500, right? Those are the damages that the plaintiff is seeking. You are best off getting an attorney. Now why? Well, aside from the fact that a business needs an attorney to represent them, there are specific laws concerning how much time you have to answer the complaint and the manner in which you answer it. I cannot tell you how many times I've had client call and say, I represented myself. I put in this law answering the complaint and, and somehow it was rejected. And they, the plaintiff has a default against me. I don't know what to do. Now. I've got this judgment. It happens very frequently. When you're served, depending upon your state and court rule, you could have approximately 35 days here in New Jersey. It's 35 days, answer the complaint.
But if your answer isn't proper, it could be rejected. And despite your attempts to answer, you could still have a default judgment entered against you, a default judgment, just so you know is essentially saying to the plaintiff, Hey, they didn't show up. So you win, right? You don't even get a fair shot at arguing your case on a default. So you need to have an attorney who understands the deadline and understands how to properly draft and file an answer to the complaint. Now, what happens if you ignore the complaint? Well, first of all, let me tell you that is the, the number one rule that you should never do. It's not gonna go away. It's not gonna get any better. The plaintiff's not gonna forget that they spent money on a lawyer and on the court to file the complaint. When you file a complaint, it costs money.
It could be $250 to file a complaint. It could be $500 depending upon your jurisdiction or whether, or you're not, whether you're in federal court or state court. So a plaintiff who just dropped two 50 or $500 to file a complaint. They are not going to forget about you. So even if their lawyer is slow to take action and to file for that default, they didn't forget. They're just slow or busy, but they will at you. They will get to your case. So when you get served, immediately review the document, see what's going on and call a lawyer. You need a lawyer that's that has some experience in litigation. You wouldn't want to call a family law attorney who has an no litigation experience to help you with this complaint. You also wouldn't wanna call an environmental law attorney who does not litigate. You need an attorney that handles lawsuits.
So that's the question you should be asking when you're searching an attorney's website or whether you're, or, you know, when you're making phone calls or the attorney to get help answering the complaint. Are you a litigation attorney? Do you handle lawsuit defenses and see what they say? If they tell you yes, then you're on the right track. If they tell you, no, we don't really do litigation, then move on because you need somebody that is focused on litigation. That doesn't mean that the attorney can't do other areas of law or can't practice in other areas, but they have to have an understanding of litigation litigation, which we will talk about in another video is a very, very specific and unique creature of the law. There are very many rules, regulations, deadlines, statutes, and things that attorneys can. And can't do that. You know, you as a non-attorney, you just aren't trained.
You could be 10 times smarter than me. You could perform brain surgery, and I might not have any clue how to do that. But lawyers have been trained in the nuances and the procedures of the law. And so utilize a lawyer to help you. I'll promise you this. If you try to represent yourself in a lawsuit that is of any significant monetary value. So we're not talking about those small $250 claims. We're talking about the ones that are 5,000, 50,000, a hundred thousand. If you try to represent yourself, you are going to be overwhelmed. You are not going to know all the procedure. And nine times outta 10, you're going to end up spending more money on a settlement, or God forbid a judgment. If you lose a trial, then you would, if you hired an attorney to help represent you and keep in mind, not every case goes to trial.
In fact, the vast majority of cases don't go to trial, but when you hire an attorney, you can talk to the attorney. And I don't want this case to go to trial. I don't want this to be a protracted, very long lengthy expense of litigation. I would like it if you could attempt to settle it. So having a lawyer in your corner, when you get served with a complaint is really critical. And then you have to be able to communicate with your lawyer about your desire, your needs, your wants, and what kind of person you are. Now in the next video, we're going to talk about what kind of person you need to be to handle a litigation matter or a lawsuit. So make sure that you subscribe to the channel so that you can follow along with the next video. And so that you are notified of new videos as we put them out. Please make sure also to like this video ring, the notification bell you'll notice on our channel, we have over 230 videos. It's been a while since I've done these types of videos, but we are going to be releasing a whole string of videos weekly. Now getting back into it. So if you like what you see here, or you think this is helpful, make sure that you tell other people about it, make sure that you yourself subscribe and follow along. Thanks for joining me. And I'll talk to you next time.
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As with any legal issue, it is important that you obtain competent legal counsel before making any decisions about how to respond to a subpoena or whether to challenge one - even if you believe that compliance is not required. Because each situation is different, it may be impossible for this article to address all issues raised by every situation encountered in responding to a subpoena. The information below can give you guidance regarding some common issues related to subpoenas, but you should consult with an attorney before taking any actions (or refraining from acts) based on these suggestions. Separately, this post will focus on New Jersey law. If you receive a subpoena in a state other than New Jersey you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney in your state as certain rules differ in other states.