In almost all civil lawsuits, once an individual is served they have twenty days to file a formal response with the court. If they do not, they risk having a default entered against them whereby they lose the right to formally defend the action brought against them.
One common mistake many people make is waiting until it is too late to hire a lawyer. While a default can in certain cases be undone, there is simply no guarantee this can always be accomplished. Two things judges will look at in deciding whether to vacate a default is the amount of time that has passed and what steps, if any, a defendant took to avoid a default. Naturally, the person who tried to contact a lawyer instantly and missed the deadline by three days stands a much better chance than the individual who waited until four months after the deadline to take any action.
It is also important to remember that many lawyers cannot always see a potential client the same day they are first contacted. A lawyer may be in court that day or may have a prior engagement with another client. It should also be noted that many responses require legal research and careful drafting which require several days of preparation. Waiting until day the last minute jeoporidzes one’s case and should never be done if possible. Call a lawyer the day you are served.
Another mistake people make is filing their own response in the form of a general narrative. Florida has very specific procedural rules. Among those rules is the understanding that a failure to specifically deny an allegation can be seen as an admission. A narrative response can also result in unintended information being conveyed which might damage a case. More often than not, the “tell all” response does substantially more harm than good.
Getting sued is stressful – for everyone. While it might seem natural to delay contacting a lawyer or to otherwise place the papers in a drawer, time truly is of the essence. A legal professional can answer the questions that keep you up at night and allow you to better understand the ins and outs of the case brought against you. Start your defense off on the right foot by immediately contacting a skilled attorney in order to ensure no deadlines are missed and your response is appropriate. There is nothing more important than laying this foundation.