Learning that you or your company has been sued is a stressful event. Anger, annoyance and disbelief are normal. But if you are sued, set those emotions aside, relax and call an attorney. Don’t wait or lay the suit papers on your desk. The clock is ticking! Once you or your company has been sued, you have only a certain amount of time to answer the case, which means filing papers, in the same court the suit is filed in, that lists all of your defenses to the suit. If you don’t file an answer by the deadline, the person or company that is suing you (called the “plaintiff”) can go to court and take a default judgment against you. This means that the plaintiff can tell the court you haven’t answered and are in default. The plaintiff can ask the judge, then and there, to award him everything he is asking for. And since you are not there, you can’t defend yourself!
There are several different kinds of courts in Texas, and each has a slightly different deadline to answer. And of course different states have very different requirements. Here are the deadlines to answer a lawsuit in Texas courts:
1. Texas District and County Courts: Your answer must be filed on or before 10:00 a.m. on the Monday next after the expiration of 20 days after you are served with the suit.
2. Texas Justice Courts: Your answer must be filed by the end of the 14th day after the day you were served with the papers. If the 14th day is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, your answer is due by the end of the first day following the 14th day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.
3. United States District Courts in Texas: Your answer is due within 21 days after being served with the summons and complaint.
As you can see, even figuring out when to answer is complicated, and there are lots of potential defenses to the suit that you can waive (meaning “give up”) if you don’t put them in your initial answer.
Bottom line. If you are sued take a deep breath, don’t delay, and call an experienced trial attorney to ask what you need to file, and when. Call us if we can help.