In this article I shall discus the options you have if a civil lawsuit is brought against you. Hopefully this will never happen. But it can. In todays society, there are enumerable reasons why you could be sued in civil court. Here is a short list:
- You or your property are accused of causing personal injury
- You are not able to meet a contract you signed
- Your landlord is suing to evict you
- You are sued for unpaid debts
- You are sued for defamation of character for an article you published
There are some important distinctions between a civil and a criminal lawsuit. Some examples are:
The burden of proof is much higher in a criminal compared to a civil case.
A prison sentence is possible if found guilty in a criminal case.
Guilty in a civil suit often results in paying financial compensation to the accuser.
In a criminal case if you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint a public defender free of charge.
In a civil case the defender will have to provide their own lawyer or represent themselves.
Defend Yourself In Civil Court
Let’s talk about how to defend yourself if you are sued. The best option is to pay a lawyer to represent you. What if you cannot afford a lawyer? In a civil suit the court will not appoint a public defender for free like in a criminal case.
The only option is to defend yourself in civil court. What can you do? The whole process starts when you receive a subpoena by the plaintiff. This document is generated through a court. The charges will be stated. A date will be provided before which you must file a response to the court.
You also have the option of filing a counter suit in connection for this case if you feel that you are the one who experienced damages by the accuser. This must be filed when you respond to the subpoena. If you do not do this at that time, you wil forfeit your rights to counter sue later.
Your best chances of defending yourself successfully is being thoroughly prepared. You can be sure that the lawyer representing the plaintiff will take every advantage of your ignorance of the law to win their case. You cannot use ignorance of the law to win your case.
We already discussed your first action. That is to answer the subpoena. And file a countersuit if you feel you were the damaged party.
You have several options to research the relevent law in question:
- Visit your local library
- You can go online here to find the answers you need: http://www.findlaw.com/11stategov/indexcode.html
- You can also get help from free legal research services online
- You may work for a company that offers free legal consultation. If so take advantage of that
- Ask to speak to law students at your local university to dicuss your case and get tips
- File for information on your case from your acusser. This can include documents they have and details of any witnesses they may be using in their case
- Attend any scheduled pretrial conferences. Be prepared to negotiate settlements that you are able to. Be willing to concede certain certain issues that you agree are not in dispute
- Oppose any motion for a summary judgement against you without a trial
- Agree on a trial date
Even once a trial date is set, you always have to option of meeting with the plaintiff and their lawyers to discuss settlement options. This will give you more time to conduct your own research to find out what options you have.
There is no easy way around this. When you do not have a lawyer representing you the plaintiff is at a huge advantage. You are verify clearly at risk. So what are your options of finding a lawyer?
Here is a website that provides advice on this very issue. https://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-lowcosthelp.htm
Even so, it becomes clear that getting free or low cost legal representation is not easy. One of the reasons is there are far too many individuals who are seeking the help of lawyers who donate their services for free to those who cannot afford to pay.
I suggest trying all the options I have discussed above to find the best way to get assistance to defend yourself in a civil lawsuit. You may even want to do your own research.
Sadly, once you need the services of a lawyer, the problem gets magnified. Imagine if you didn’t have auto or home insurance and you were involved in a car accident. or your home was burgled? You would be in serious trouble. That is why we have insurance.
I strongly suggest you doing research in finding prepaid legal assistance companies and subscribing to their services before you ever need it. And like any other type of insurance, except life, you hope that you hope you never have to use it.
Options for Prepaid Legal Help
Legal Zoom is one such company. Rather than I tell you all about their services you can click the link I provided and find out the details for yourself.
The American Bar Association is another option you have to see if this is right for you.
Lastly I’d like to direct you to the prepaid legal service that I use, LegalShield. To be transparent, they are an affiliate company I represent. I have no connection with the first two companies listed above.
If you wish to learn more about the advantages of paying a low cost monthly subscription, I have discussed this extensively in my website, How To Have Peace Of Mind – A Path For Righting Wrongs
My Fervent Wish For You
I truly wish you are never in a position where you are sued. This can be one of the most stressful periods in your life. If it makes sense to you, I strongly recommend being prepared just in case you need legal help, before it could even happen.
Although I have limited this article to civil suits, the magnitude of the problem gets raised far higher if you are facing a criminal lawsuit. This could be based on a false accusation for example. When you consider the possibilities of such a situation happening, being prepared takes on a whole new meaning.
Please make any comments, ask questions or discuss experiences of your own in the comments section below. I would be very appreciative if you did.