How To Respond To A Lawsuit Without An Attorney

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Receiving a summons or complaint against you can be a daunting experience, particularly when you don’t have an attorney. As the right to an attorney only applies to incarcerated individuals, as many as 90% of individuals go without legal representation every year. But you are not alone; Fiore & Barber, LLC, is on hand for advice on how to respond to a lawsuit without an attorney.

If you receive a complaint or summons, responding is essential. No response is considered an admission of guilt, and the plaintiff (the person with the complaint) may receive everything they’ve alleged as a default judgment will be passed against you. In most cases, you will have up to 28 days to respond, but this will vary by state.

Analyzing The Complaint

In addition to submitting your response on time, you must also include essential information to register your response successfully. Carefully read the complaint and include the same details in your response regarding the plaintiff, your name and address (you will be known as the defendant), the correct court, county, case number, and the judge. When you read the complaint, take note of every point made in the complaint’s body, as these will be what you are responding to. Make a copy of the complaint you can annotate and keep a clean copy of the original document.

Writing Your Response

Your response should cover every paragraph in the complaint and whether you admit or deny each point raised. If you can’t remember whether part of the complaint is correct, it may be safer to deny it and avoid relying on your memory. For each point that you admit or deny, include a brief reason why. An example would be if the plaintiff alleged you never paid back a loan you’ve already repaid. You can include any affirmative defense at the end of these responses, such as the statute of limitations nullifying the complaint. You should also make sure you include any relevant counterclaims that relate to the plaintiff. Then, ask the judge to dismiss the claim and sign your name and print your contact details below.

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What Is A Counterclaim?

If you feel that the plaintiff wronged you in a way that is financially or legally relevant to the claim, you may want to file a counterclaim. The plaintiff in your original complaint will need to respond to your counterclaim. The judge would need to consider your counterclaim alongside the original claim. A counterclaim is different from a defense. The defense is when there is a reason the complaint is incorrect, while a counterclaim is you suing the individual that filed the complaint. 

A counterclaim doesn’t have to be directly related to the same complaint but does have to be relevant to the plaintiff. For instance, if you live in a rented property and are sued for damages, your counterclaim may be that your landlord didn’t pay you back your security deposit. You must include the counterclaim in your answer; otherwise, you may lose your right to sue.

Filing The Response

Make a copy of your response and mail the first one to the Plaintiff’s Attorney’s address. Tracking the post is essential to make sure you have a record of the delivery arriving. Bring the original response and another copy to the county courthouse. They will charge a filing fee, keep the original, and stamp your copy as proof of your response being submitted. This process covers the counterclaim as well, as this is included in your response. Once you’ve filed the response, you should keep the court updated with any address or telephone number changes. If you have any legal documentation that proves any aspect of your defense or counterclaim, you should start compiling this. Keep at least three copies of these ready.

What Happens Next

After you’ve filed your response, you may be invited to a pre-trial hearing with the judge to see if the case can be settled without a trial. Depending on the pre-trial hearing outcome, you may then be invited to court and present your defense or counterclaim. You can call upon yourself as a witness or call other witnesses relevant to your claim.
The information given here does not constitute legal advice and is not state specific, but we hope it is useful when responding to a lawsuit. If you need a little help, you can always contact us at Fiore & Barber, and we’ll be there for legal advice and support.

How To Change Your Name After A Divorce

Many people understandably want to change their name after a divorce.

You do not need to explain the reason for the name change. For most divorcees, part of the motivation for a name change is to regain their identity and independence and remove the name that symbolically ties them to their ex-spouse.

Whatever the reason, it is certainly possible to replace your name after you get a divorce. The more important question is how to change your name after a divorce.

The name-change process varies from state to state, but the general steps are the same. If you want to know how to change your name after a divorce, you may need to consult an attorney to help with both the name change and the overall divorce process.

In many states, you need to request to restore your previous name or petition for a name change on your divorce appeal. Even if you do not make this request at the time of your divorce, you can get the name changed later by requesting a court order.

What Are the Steps to Change Your Name in PA?

If you want to know how to change your name after a divorce, you need to understand your state’s laws.

However, the process is quite simple. There are three main steps required to change your name in the state.

First, you need a court order as proof of the divorce name change. After you have acquired the court order, you need to notify the SSA (Social Security Administration) of the change. Also, you will need to change your name with the DMV.
Getting a Court Order
The domestic relations court has the power to “restore any name that the person had before marriage.”

You can ask the court to include the restoration of your name in its final divorce or dissolution decree. An important thing to note here is that, while a domestic relations court has the power to restore your former name (as it appeared on your ID before marriage), it cannot change your name to a completely new one.

For that, you would have to go to a probate court in your county.

In case you don’t have the name restoration included in the Final Decree of Divorce, you may still change your name later through your county’s probate court.

This process involves some paperwork. There are forms to fill out, and you will need to publish the notice of the application in a local newspaper at least 30 days before the official hearing.

While publishing your name change in the newspaper may seem unnecessary at first, it is actually for a good reason. The main reason that you have to do this step in some states is to avoid people changing their names secretly to defraud creditors.

Changing Your Name with the SSA

Once you have the court order for a name change, the next step is to apply for a new social security card. You can complete the application online.

The SSA will ask you to present legal documents proving the requested name is legally yours. In this case, the court order that granted your name change qualifies as a legal document. Other materials you may need include a birth certificate or passport as proof of both citizenship and identity.

Changing Your Name with the DMV

Once you have applied for a new social security card, you will need to request a name change at a DMV. For this step, you will need your new social security card, your driver’s license, and proof of your name change (the court order) along with the payment for any applicable fees. Your driver’s license will then be updated to reflect the changed name.

Avoid the Extra Court Order by Including Your Name Change in the Divorce Petition

You may have noticed that applying for a name change after a divorce can be complicated. The fastest and simplest way to get your name changed after a divorce is to include the request for a name change in the divorce petition.

The court will then include that new name in its final pronouncement. However, the other processes, such as getting a new social security card and having your name changed at the DMV, are still necessary.

Something to note is that, even if the court makes the Decree of Divorce without including the name change, you could still theoretically continue using your pre-marriage name in social situations.

You will need a court order as proof of a name change for official purposes and legal situations.

Agencies, organizations, and employers will require you to present some proof of the name change before they agree to use it on official documents.

As long as you include the request for a name change in your divorce petition, you should receive it as part of the court’s pronouncement.

If you don’t, you can follow the steps above to get it changed after the fact. Once you have the court papers, you can have your name officially changed at school, work, and on official documents.

Notify the Correct Departments and Agencies about the Name Change

Once you have changed your name legally, it is still your responsibility to modify your name on other records and identity documents. Some places you may have to notify include:

• Voter registration
• Passport
• Post office
• State tax authority
• Insurance policies
• Places of employment
• Investment plans
• Retirement plans
• Credit cards
• Subscriptions and memberships

You may also have to consider changing other sensitive documents, such as your will, power of attorney, contracts, trust documents and records, and health care proxies.

Because of the complexity associated with name changes, you should consult with a qualified lawyer regarding a name change and any other significant legal matter. The attorney may explain the full implications of a name change and advise you on how to navigate the situation.

Ideally, your attorney will have the knowledge and experience to help with all aspects of the divorce, as well.

A New Pennsylvania Law Is Making It More Important to Have a DUI Defense Attorney

Did you know the DUI laws in Pennsylvania are changing? On October 24, 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 961 (SB 961) into law, increasing the penalties for driving under the influence. Here’s what you need to know about these new penalties, and how they could affect people charged with a DUI.

How Does Senate Bill 961 Increase DUI Penalties?

For the first time in Pennsylvania history, the state will have felony driving under the influence charges. Drivers arrested for a third DUI charge with a blood-alcohol level of .16 percent or higher will be charged with a third-degree felony. A driver arrested four times or more for drunk or drugged driving will automatically be charged with felony DUI. This intensifies the penalties for repeat offenders.

Prior DUI convictions will also factor into penalties when it comes to fatal/injury crashes caused by drivers who were drinking. The current mandatory sentence for a vehicular homicide charge is three years. However, under the new legislation signed by our governor, the minimum penalty for a DUI driver caught in such an accident will be five years. If that DUI driver has two or more previous DUI convictions, that minimum sentence increases to seven years under SB 961.

What Effects Could These Changes Have on Your Life?

Besides increasing the possible jailtime you face, a felony conviction can have serious effects on your life. It can increase how long your license is suspended and it will remain on your criminal record. Anyone who runs a background check will see your felony conviction. This is why an attorney is so important when it comes to defending yourself from these charges.

An attorney can investigate to see if there were any flaws in the collection and processing of evidence in your case. Getting such evidence excluded could result in the reduction of charges against you or even a dismissal of your case. If your constitutional rights were violated during your arrest, an attorney can utilize those violations to plea bargain for a lesser offense.

These legal changes highlight just how important defending yourself against DUI charges can be. A felony conviction could send your life into a tailspin and seriously affect your future. At Fiore & Barber, LLC, we are experienced DUI lawyers who work diligently to give our clients the defense they need. Call us at (215)256-0205 to schedule a free consultation.

Will 2018 Break Thanksgiving DUI Numbers? We Take a Close Look at the Numbers

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel weeks in Pennsylvania. But did you know that it is also an active period for drunk drivers? Police usually come out in force to prevent a surge in drunk driving crashes, but 2018 could be different than most years.

Why Thanksgiving DUI Enforcement Will Go Up in 2018

Last year, the Thanksgiving holiday was busier for Pennsylvania State Police than normal. It reported 981 crashes in 2017, up from 931 crashes in 2016. In addition, 85 of those 2017 crashes were ruled alcohol-related, which was an almost 30 percent increase from 2016. These higher numbers were despite increased efforts to catch DUI drivers by state troopers. The agency reported that it made 629 DUI arrests last year between November 22 and 26, another increase over 2016’s statistics.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) reported that 3,962 crashes happened during the Thanksgiving weekend in 2016, resulting in 38 fatalities. In 2017, PennDOT reported that the number of fatalities had decreased to 26 while the number of crashes had increased to 4,509. Considering that just as many travelers could be on the road in 2018 as there were in 2017, these numbers could easily rise.

To prevent another rise in crashes during Thanksgiving, drivers can expect enforcement to increase to levels higher than what we saw last year. That means even more Thanksgiving DUI arrests can be expected. And if you are charged with a DUI, you can expect the effects on your life to be dramatic.

A DUI conviction can lead to jail time, fines and the suspension of your driver’s license. This can also result in the loss of your job as well as other social consequences. Knowing your options when facing these charges is essential, and the criminal defense attorneys at Fiore & Barber, LLC may be able to help. We have over 28 years of combined experience that may help our potential clients minimize the damage done to their lives.

What are the Consequences of a DUI in Pennsylvania?

With Halloween right around the corner, you might be planning your costume for a big Halloween bash or picking out the bars you are going to visit with friends. Have you planned a safe way home at the end of the night? The last thing you need is a DUI on your record.

In Pennsylvania, the consequences of your DUI are determined by your blood alcohol content (BAC) and previous offenses. However, your age, license type and whether you caused injuries or damages to another person can affect the penalties too. Generally, there are three tiers of DUI in Pennsylvania:

Tier 1: Your BAC is between 0.08 and 0.099 percent

  • For first time DUI offenses, you’ll likely face a small fine and be required to take an alcohol safety course.
  • If you have had one or more DUIs, then you’ll receive an automatic 12-month license suspension.

Tier 2: Your BAC is between 0.1 and 0.159 percent

  • If your BAC is between 0.1 and 0.159, then you will receive an automatic 12-month license suspension even if it is your first offense. If you have had three or more DUI offenses, then it will be 18 months.

Tier 3: Your BAC is 0.16 percent or higher

  • You will receive an automatic 12-month suspension for your first offense and an 18-month suspension for additional offenses.

The more DUI offenses you have had in the past, the greater the consequences. For example, if you are charged with a DUI and have had one prior DUI charge, then you will be required to install an ignition lock in your vehicle for one year after your license suspension expires. An ignition interlock is a device that keeps your car from starting if you do not pass a breathalyzer test first. You will have to pass a breathalyzer every time you want to drive your car. In addition, the likelihood of prison is greater once you have accrued more than one DUI.

Minors, school bus drivers, truck drivers and drivers who caused injuries or damages to another person could be subject to greater penalties even if their BAC is in the first tier. Driving under the influence of drugs or refusing breath and chemical testing could subject you to the greatest penalties.

If you have been charged with a DUI, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The DUI attorneys at Fiore & Barber, LLC represent clients in Montgomery County, Bucks County, Lehigh County and the surrounding areas. We could help you discuss your legal options. Call us today at (215) 256-0205 or contact us online.

What to Do if You’re Charged with a DUI on Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day Weekend is a weekend full of special events with family, friends and celebrations to commemorate the end of summer. However, like other holiday weekends during the year, many people will be drinking alcoholic beverages and putting themselves and others at risk while driving. Law enforcement will be on high alert during this three-day weekend in order to pull over suspected drunk drivers. If you are arrested and charged with a DUI on Labor Day Weekend, it’s crucial that you know what your next legal steps should be.

I’ve Been Charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, What Do I Do Next?

First, it’s important that you immediately get in touch with a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney who can guide you through the DUI charge and arrest process. You and your attorney will then go over the various factors associated with your specific arrest, such as if a field sobriety test was conducted, what your blood alcohol concentration was, and other important factors. Understand that Pennsylvania has an implied consent law, so if you refuse to take a chemical test you can be subject to fines and a license suspension.

Next, you should understand the different penalties you will be facing if you are charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania. If this is your first offense, you are likely to face a $300 fine. In addition, you could also be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle if you refuse to take a chemical test. If it is your second or third offense, the severity of your penalties will increase. You could be facing anywhere from six months to two years in jail, $300 to $5,000 in fines, a year-long license suspension, and you could be required to use an IID while your license is restricted.

In order to avoid these harsh penalties, it is wise to take preventative measures before going out and drinking on Labor Day Weekend. Consider taking a ridesharing service, finding a designated sober driver, or host a party at your home instead.

If you have been charged and/or arrested for a DUI on Labor Day Weekend, you should contact our Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys at Fiore & Barber today for a free consultation.

What Is New in Ridesharing Bills in Pennsylvania?

Uber and Lyft have been subjects of discussion in Pennsylvania, especially with lawmakers and tax specialists. The Philadelphia Parking Authority, or the PPA, has complained for a few years now that the state of ridesharing vehicles is appalling (severe physical damage, gas leaks, etc.) and that a new tax bill is in order. However, there are many conflicting opinions with the PPA that argue the problem is more complex.

Is There a New Tax Bill Regarding Ridesharing in Pennsylvania?

The PPA is arguing in favor of a change in the way taxis and ridesharing vehicles are taxed to raise funds for routine inspections. Specifically, a 50-cent tax is proposed for any car-for-hire in Pennsylvania. Uber and Lyft have disagreed with the new tax plan, and both companies have told the PPA that rideshare vehicles are safer than suggested in the state. Since last year, Uber and Lyft have actually passed 90 percent of all of their inspections, and these results raise further confusion on why the PPA wants to raise taxes.

The PPA continues their argument, stating that with the growing numbers of Uber and Lyft drivers every year, they are struggling to keep up with inspections led by limited staff. The PPA also argues that two thirds of rideshare tax revenue goes to the state’s school district and creating the tax levy would increase money for the district, from $3 million to $11 million a year.

The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, however, disagrees that there is any problem with ridesharing in Pennsylvania. According to the committee’s chairwoman, the number of rideshare violations has been minimal. In conclusion, new legislation does not seem to be the current solution for Pennsylvania ridesharing right now. If you would like to keep up with ridesharing news in Pennsylvania, visit our firm’s website online or call for more information.

What Are My Possible Defenses After a DUI Arrest?

If you are ever charged with a DUI, you should know that the penalties for this type of charge can be pretty serious. If you have experienced a DUI arrest and you feel like you should fight the charge, understand that there are a few possible defenses that you could use in court. With a viable and well thought out defense, you could convince the prosecution to drop or reduce your charges, prevent your driver’s license from being suspended, or even win an acquittal at trial.

What Defenses Can I Use After I’m Arrested for a DUI?

The prosecution during your trial will try to prove that you were driving a vehicle and that you were “under the influence” while driving. Your defenses could either be related to the “driving” aspect or to the arrest procedures.

For a defense related to driving, you could argue that you weren’t necessarily driving. If you were parked and sleeping in your vehicle when law enforcement arrived, you could possibly have a good defense. Most states, however, don’t require proof of actual driving in order to be convicted for a DUI. Usually, the prosecution just needs to prove that you were “operating” or “physically controlling” the vehicle when you were intoxicated.

Another, and arguably easier defense for your DUI charge, is the defense related to how you were arrested. If you believe that the police officer didn’t follow the law when stopping and/or arresting you, you could use certain evidence to defend yourself.


  • There was no probable cause for arrest: Police officers need probable cause to actually stop your vehicle, especially on the cause of a DUI suspicion. Traffic violations are usually the reason for the police’s probable cause, but if you believe the officer pulled you over for no legal reason, you could use this as a defense.
  • No Miranda warnings: Law enforcement is generally required to read your Miranda rights before questioning you while you are in police custody. If you made an incriminating statement in response to police questioning, and you were not given your Miranda warnings prior to this, the statement may not be admissible in court.

Our attorneys at Fiore & Barber can assist you if you were charged with a DUI and you want to fight your charge. Contact our firm today for a free consultation.

What Should I Do If I Am a Victim of a Hit-and-Run Car Accident?

Hit-and-run accidents are much harder to legally handle and investigate than other traffic accidents. Because the driver that caused the accident is unknown, it can be difficult to determine liability. Hit-and-runs also present some unique complications for victims in their pursuit of compensation.

What Are the Legal Consequences of a Hit-and-Run Accident?

In a civil injury lawsuit, victims may be able to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages are available if it can be shown that a defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff or acted in a dangerous manner during the accident. Punitive damages are meant to punish another person (the defendant) in order to prevent poor conduct in the future as a warning to others. These types of damages are calculated based on the defendant’s lack of morality and how much money it would take to financially hurt them. Fleeing the scene of a crime is an intentional act, which is why the injury court will usually justify punitive damages in a hit-and-run incident. The plaintiff, of course, is also entitled to damages that compensate for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, etc.

There can also be criminal consequences for hit-and-run accidents. If the person who was hit was injured or killed, the defendant could face significant jail time. This will all depend on the kind of damages or injuries that the accident caused, but criminal penalties can result in misdemeanor or felony charges.

Unfortunately, much of the time there is no way to hold the running driver fully accountable for their actions in a hit-and-run. Because of this, victims of hit-and-run accidents are often forced to collect from their own insurance policies.

If you have been a victim of a hit-and-run car accident, you should know what your legal rights are in your specific situation. Contact our car accident attorneys at Fiore & Barber, LLC today for a free consultation.

What Are My Next Steps After Severely Damaging My Car After a Car Accident?

If you have ever been involved in a car accident, you know that there are many negative consequences that can occur. Personal injuries are common, but what’s even more common is having your vehicle be seriously damaged or possibly completely totaled. A total loss auto accident can occur from a deadly collision with another vehicle, or with hitting a deer, but it will ultimately depend on the value of your car. A total loss accident is unfortunately more difficult to process than just getting your vehicle repaired, so it’s important to know what you should do if you’re found in this situation.

What Are the Steps Involved in Closing a Total Loss Claim?

  1. Report your claim to the insurance company immediately: If you believe you have a total loss auto claim, you should act as soon as possible. These kinds of claims can take a long time to finalize and eventually close, depending on your insurance company and how fast they can start working on your claim.
  2. Get your vehicle towed to your insurance company’s chosen shop: If you think that your car will probably be totaled, you should have it towed to the shop that your insurance company works with. This will help speed up the process for your insurance company because they already have direct connections with the towing shop, plus most of those shops will hold your vehicle for free (unlike a tow company’s lot).
  3. Find your title: Locate your title during this process, just so you don’t have to worry about it later. If you’ve lost your title, file for a lost one at the DMV. This is important, because if your vehicle is a total loss, you’ll have to sign your title over to the insurance company.
  4. If you have a loan, find out how much you owe: Determine how much you owe on your auto loan just in case your loan is greater than your vehicle’s current value. Total loss auto claims are not paid out based on what you owe but on the actual cash value at the time of the total loss.
  5. Find out the value of your vehicle: You can check resources like Kelly Blue Book and other vehicle listings sources to find out the value of your vehicle on your own. Doing this research will give you a better idea of whether or not the insurance company will have a good final payout amount.

Our personal injury attorneys at Fiore & Barber, LLC can help you if you were injured in a car accident, and we will give you further advice on recovering from any vehicle damages that occurred. Contact us today.

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