What to Do if You Are Sued

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Being sued can be upsetting and intimidating. But, ignoring a court case isn’t going to help you deal with the problem. It will make the problem worse.

Being Served

When you are sued, you should get served with a summons and complaint. Read them carefully. The person suing you is the Plaintiff and you are the Defendant. The Plaintiff’s name is at the top of the summons and on the complaint. Read the complaint to find out why you are being sued. Read any other documents that came with the summons and complaint too.

Don’t panic! Just because someone has sued you does not mean they will win.

What Should I Do Next?

You have two choices when you are sued. Your first choice is to do nothing. If you do nothing, the Plaintiff will probably get whatever is asked for in the complaint. This could be a money judgment, a divorce, a custody order, an eviction, or something else.

Your second choice is to answer the complaint. This tells the court your response to the complaint and how you want to resolve the case.

Filing an Answer

Different kinds of cases have different deadlines for filing an answer. To learn about your deadline, find the resource page on Michigan Legal Help that fits your legal problem. Your answer is your side of the story. You respond to each paragraph of the complaint one by one. Your response to each paragraph should be "I agree with this paragraph," "I disagree with this paragraph," or "I don’t know if this paragraph is true." If you disagree, say why you disagree. The Do-It-Yourself tools on Michigan Legal Help can help you create an answer in several kinds of cases. 

Raise a Defense

You can also use your answer to raise defenses. A defense is a good reason the Plaintiff should lose the case or not get what is requested in the complaint.

File a Counterclaim

You can also file a counterclaim if the Plaintiff harmed you. A counterclaim tells the court you believe the Plaintiff owes you money or some other relief. In a divorce case, a counterclaim also lets you continue the case if the Plaintiff decides to dismiss it. Filing an answer, defenses, or counterclaim does not mean the Plaintiff’s case will go away. It tells the court your point of view, and keeps you actively involved in the case. After your answer is filed, there will be other papers filed and court hearings to attend. You and the plaintiff can resolve the case through negotiation, mediation, or by trial with a judge or jury.

Consider Talking to a Lawyer

Representing yourself can be difficult. After you read the complaint, you may want to talk to a lawyer about your case before you decide to file your own answer. If you have a low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. If you are not able to get free legal services but can’t afford high legal fees, consider hiring a lawyer for part of your case instead of the whole thing. This is called limited scope representation. To learn more, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer. To find a limited scope lawyer, follow this link to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.