What To Do If You Get Sued
If you own or operate a business, if you own property, or even if you merely operate a vehicle from time to time, chances are at some point you will find yourself in a lawsuit. It is perhaps an inevitability in our society. So, what do you do if you get sued?
1. Don’t Ignore It
Being named in a lawsuit might bring about feelings of fear or embarrassment and any number of negative emotions. But don’t stick your head in the sand or avoid dealing with the lawsuit for weeks before doing something about it. There are time sensitive deadlines and responsibilities for parties named in a lawsuit. Contact a lawyer as soon as you are served with a complaint. Your lawyer will need time to gather and consider background information and documents to assess how to best respond to the lawsuit. Beyond answering the complaint, it may be possible to challenge the complaint based on legal deficiencies and you may want to file a cross-complaint against the plaintiff or others who may bear responsibility for the alleged wrong. These things take time to sort out so the earlier you contact a lawyer the better.
Schwartz Semerdjian lawyers have decades of litigation experience in a broad range of practice areas. There is almost nothing we haven’t experienced or can’t handle. But, in the event the lawsuit involves an area of practice outside of our expertise, we have a wide referral network inside and outside of California and we can assist you in finding the right legal help.
2. Preserve Evidence
Identify and gather anything that might potentially be evidence in the case, even if you are not sure it is ultimately relevant to the dispute. This includes evidence that is helpful as well as potentially harmful evidence. You have a legal duty to retain, protect, and preserve all evidence pertaining to the litigation. Destruction of evidence can be much worse for your case than just unfavorable evidence. Evidence can include things such as documents, notes, text messages, emails, videos, audio recordings and telephone records. Take care to ensure that such data and documents are not deleted and preserve the evidence in manner that will avoid its loss or destruction. If you have any question about whether something might be relevant evidence, consult your lawyer.
3. Consider Insurance Coverage
Identify any personal or business insurance policies that may potentially cover the claims alleged in the lawsuit. Locate insurance policy information and contact your insurance agent or your lawyer to help you most effectively tender the claim to the appropriate insurance company. Insurance companies have a broad duty to defend their policy holders, even when the claims might not ultimately be covered. It is important to determine early in the case whether insurance will cover your litigation costs and attorney’s fees as litigation can be expensive. Plus, if your insurance carrier is not notified of a potentially covered claim within a certain time after you become aware of the claim, the carrier can decline to cover the costs of your defense, even for clearly covered claims. Yet another reason early communication with a lawyer is important.
4. Cooperate With Your Lawyer
Whether you hire a lawyer directly or an insurance company hires a lawyer to defend you, be open and honest with your lawyer. Trust your lawyer’s understanding of the process and ability to navigate the facts and nuances involved in the case. Your lawyer needs to know “the good, the bad and the ugly” so they can determine how to most effectively represent your interests in the litigation. Rarely will every fact be in your favor. Forthright communication with your lawyer is essential to the defense strategy. And remember, the conversations you have with your lawyer are confidential attorney-client privileged communications so they will not be shared with anyone outside the attorney-client relationship without your consent.
5. Trust The Process
Recognize that most often litigation takes a long time and won’t just go away quickly. The primary reason for this is that the litigation process is intended to be fair and thorough and not a rush to judgment. Embrace the legal assistance and guidance provided by your lawyer and understand there is a light at the end of the litigation tunnel. There will be an end.
Despite the many lawyer jokes that have been circulated throughout the years - some perhaps well earned - you can find that your lawyer ends up providing you with a sense of comfort and confidence as they shepherd you through the emotional and potentially anxiety inducing process. At Schwartz Semerdjian, our lawyers want to be by your side providing counsel to achieve a practical and successful resolution to your legal dispute whether through negotiated resolution, effective litigation tactics or trial. If you or anyone you know is served with a lawsuit, contact Schwartz Semerdjian as soon as possible so we can assist you with the litigation process and the successful resolution of the dispute.