Have you recently been served with lawsuit in Dallas, Rockwall or Kaufman Counties? Well, stop freaking out for a few minutes and read this article. There are several things you need to understand about the papers you just received and what that means for you, your business and your money.
- 1. You Are Now On The Clock
If you have been served, the time period for you to file your answer or other plea has begun. It is important for you to understand the time period provided on the citation paperwork you have received. If you have been sued in county or district court, the time period provided is funky and should say something like this: you have until 10:00 AM the Monday next following the expiration of 20 days following the date of service.
Yeah, okay, but what does it mean that the period for answering has begun? Basically, when you get served, begin counting from the day after service, so if you were served on Monday, start counting from the following day (Tuesday) and go forward 20-days. Once you have done that, go forward to the next Monday. If you are still not sure about the time periods, do what number 2 below says.
2. Know Your Own Limitations: Hire an Attorney
Knowing your limitations is often the key to personal success. Why? Because if you know what you are weaknesses are, then you will be able to put in action a plan that limits those weaknesses. You can create a buffer between you and your weaknesses.
Having said all of that, I also want you to know that I get it. You are a smart, probably educated person/business owner, and like all good Americans, you feel like no situation is too big for you. I love that about you. However, I practice law for a living and the first thing I will tell you about the law is that practicing law is hard. I can only imagine how hard it is for people who try to defend themselves in a lawsuit who have never done it before. I remember my first trial and how nervous I was when trying to get evidence admitted or formulate questions for witnesses and trying to remember all of the hearsay exceptions. I still get a little nervous going into court.
There are also other things to consider other than what the law or facts of a given case are: there are procedures that lawyers know about that you most likely do not. Like what you say? Well, there are all sorts of them. Before you file an answer, you need to figure out whether that court even has jurisdiction over you. You need to figure out whether you any affirmative defenses or defenses that require verification. You need to figure out whether the lawsuit that was filed against you requires a verified denial otherwise you still lose even if you file an answer. There are a host of other considerations to take into account because, based on the answers to the questions posed, and those also not posed, there are procedural tools such as pleas in abatement, special appearances, motions to dismiss baseless causes of action, motion to transfer etc.. that you may want to file prior to filing your answer, also once you decide to file your answer, you need to know the defenses you want to plead in your answer to make sure you really have “covered your butt”.
So, having said all that, hire an attorney, please.
3. Begin Collecting the Evidence
This is important. If you have been served, you need to begin obtaining all of the relevant evidence related to the lawsuit. Do not simply gather the good evidence. Gather everything, even if it makes you look bad. That way, when you go to an attorney like I told you to do above, your attorney can create a case plan. You will also likely be required to share that information in the discovery phase of the case with the other party and it just makes it easier when your attorney already has that information rather than trying to get it at the last second.
4. Litigation Will Throw You Curves
Litigation is a funny thing. You can only be sure of one thing: nothing stays the same and anything can happen.Your attorney is going to try to limit the things they cannot control. That being said, every case has its ups and downs and just because you think you are right, does not mean you are right according to the law. So, do not be shocked when your attorney tells you something may happen and then it comes true, even if they said it was unlikely. Especially if your case goes to trial. Trial is trial and anything can happen. That is why attorneys try to steer cases to mediation and settlement conferences because trial is an absolute uncertainty.
5. Be Honest With Your Attorney
Do not lie to your attorney. If you do, you could completely screw up your case. Always be up front, honest and fully disclose everything to your attorney. That is the point of attorney-client privilege. It is protected communications that cannot be used against you. However, what it can do is help your attorney figure out a strategy that best helps you or your company. If you lie to your attorney about a material fact in your case, that could cause your attorney to do one thing when, really, they should be doing something else.
6. “Winning” Does Not Necessarily Mean Judgment in Your Favor
Sometimes you still end up paying or doing something that you didn’t want to have to do. Winning to the outside world is getting a favorable judgment at trial. Winning in the civil defense world means having the best possible outcome under the given circumstances, whatever that may be. One of my favorite law professors used to say “sometimes you cannot get around the law and the facts” and that is so true. Well, almost. There are ways to get around the law and the facts: settlement. I know that may not be the most popular outcome, but that is not the point. The point of being a competent attorney is advising my clients on the best possible of all outcomes. A question that I often ask myself is “what is my worst day in court on this case?” if my worst day scares me, then it should definitely scare my clients.
7. Do Not Fall For Those Attorneys Who Attempt to Guarantee Victory
First of all, an attorney that is willing to guarantee you anything other than their best shot is not someone you can trust. Second, guaranteeing a client victory is against ethics. You just do not do it. If you do go speak with an attorney and they do anything other than soberly look at your case and weigh the facts and present you with some options for moving forward, do not hire them. If they simply tell you that they are going to go kick the other sides butt but do not tell you how, I can tell you that their reasons for that their “want” for your money exceeds their ability, i.e. they are not familiar enough with the law and your applicable defenses yet to tell you how they are going to win, but they think they can do it.
8. Rome Was Not Built In a Day
How is this cliché statement applicable here you ask? Well, think about it. Do you think that cases go like they do in TV shows? Lawsuit is filed on Monday and then on Thursday you have trial? Well, hate to burst your bubble but it does not work that way. In some courts in North Texas, it takes months to even get a hearing date on little issues within a case, let alone a full-blown trial on the merits of an entire case. So, that Monday-Thursday scenario will not likely be happening in your case. Your case could go on for months and even years! Welcome to real-world litigation. There needs to be time for discovery of relevant evidence (papers, documents, depositions, etc..) prior to trial. We will also have to attempt some form of mediation prior to trial. Those things all take time to conduct in order for you attorney to competently “build” your case.
Also, I like to think of courts as different highways in Dallas-Fort Worth. Some are like highway 20, which for the most part is clear but has spurts of traffic, while others are like 75 in Dallas or 35 in Fort Worth. You know what I mean. So, even if you wanted to have your trial on the Monday-Thursday scenario, there probably is not a court in Texas that could put you on the court docket that quickly. There are too many other cases for that. But that is okay, we probably do not want to go to court that soon anyway.
Why do I say all this: because setting expectations is not only a big reason for this article, it is also a major part of client communications. If you know what to expect, then you know what to expect of me, my firm, and your case. So, be patient. Your case may take a while, but that does not mean your attorney is doing a bad job or that your attorney does not care about your case.
ABOUT OUR FIRM:
Guest and Gray, P.C. is a full service law firm. In addition to our accidenton80.com site for our personal injury and civil litigation practice, we also have our Dallas Divorce Lawyer Blog and our Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog. Check out those sites for more information about our firm, our practice areas and our lawyers.
If you have been served with a lawsuit and you do not know where to turn, call Guest and Gray, P.C. at (972) 564-4644. You need to be made aware of your options going forward. You need strong, experienced attorneys who are willing to fight hard for you and your company.