I Have Been Sued in a Civil Lawsuit. What Do I Do?


“You Have Been Served.”

These words can send anyone into a panic. What does it mean, exactly? What do you do when you get served with a civil lawsuit and can’t afford a lawyer? The most important thing is not to ignore the papers.  It will not go away by itself.  You have to take action immediately.  If not, you will lose your right to defend against the lawsuit and to state your side of the story.  You might even be stuck with a judgment against you. 

Keep These Few Tips in Mind

Florida complaints have time limits for responding.

Read Carefully

The first thing you will need to do is to read the summons carefully.  It will tell you how long you have to respond to the case against you.  Complaints alleging breach of contract, negligence, or foreclosure usually has a time window of 20 days within which you are to respond.  Should the complaint state a 5-day limit for responding, it is generally dealing with eviction or return of property.

In cases from the small claims court, there are no set limit limits for responding.  Instead, you’ll have to appear in a pre-trial hearing.  The date is in the papers which are served on the party.  If you don’t show up for the pre-trial hearing, you will lose the case.  This is why it is so important to read the documents that you received.

What if I Miss the Deadline?

If you miss the deadline, the party suing you can ask the court for a default judgment against you.  The person will receive anything he/she asked for in the complaint.  The court will see the person’s allegations as the truth.  The result can be garnished wages or taken property.

Consider Your Options for Professional Assistance

Would You Need Help With This Lawsuit?  

It might be a good idea to contact a legal professional or company such as South Florida Legal Doc Prep Services, LLC to help you see the situation.  Could you perhaps have any counterclaims against the person suing you? It is not always easy to see the forest through the trees, however, a professional will help you put forward your best defense.

If you do choose to get help, try and do so quickly.

Some of the Options Available to You


You have several decisions to make when being served with a civil complaint.  The below will provide you with some of the following steps you need to consider.

You Can:

      • Try and resolve the matter with the person suing you. Just remember, it would not stop the twenty-day clock from ticking.
      • File an answer.  It is your answer to the allegations and your chance to give the facts.
      • You can file a motion to dismiss or a motion for the plaintiff to give you more information.
      • You can sue the plaintiff yourself in a counterclaim.
      • Or you can do nothing.

It is not our job to explain each of the options in detail here.  The important thing is to know that you do have options.  The best way to evaluate them is to speak to a professional.  We at South Florida Legal Doc Prep Services, LLC cannot give you legal advice, but with our years of experience, we can help you evaluate what you could do.

Do Not Talk to Everybody About It

Go about your typical day.  Don’t talk about the civil suit with anybody.  You might say something that can harm your case.

Preparing a Response and Filing It

It is possible for you to act as your own legal counsel?

We can help you find the correct forms to file an answer or a motion with the court. We can assist you in filing the matter with the court.  If you’re going to file your documents in person, you will need to take your answer to the civil department as well as the correct filing fee.  Filing fees can also be waived, but you need to follow the proper procedure.  We can help you with that as well.  The plaintiff also needs to be served with a copy of your response.

What Will Happen Next?

 It Will Depend

 The next items to consider in a civil complaint will depend on what you filed with the court.

      • If you filed an answer, the case would move forward.
      • If you filed a counterclaim, the plaintiff most probably would file another response to your claim.
      • If you filed a motion, a court hearing would be scheduled to resolve the issue.  The judge may dismiss your case. In other instances, the case will move forward again.

In the end, if it gets that far, the matter will be resolved in a court of law.


The bottom line is not to panic when it happens, but to know that some rules and procedures must be followed when you are served with papers.  Professionals, such as our expert staff at South Florida Legal Doc Prep Services, LLC will be more than happy to help and to discuss your situation.  We can discuss your matter and how much it will cost.

Contact Us Today for a Free Quote