How To Respond To A Lawsuit Without An Attorney

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.

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 so that you’ll know how to respond to a lawsuit without an attorney. If you need a little help, you can always contact us at Fiore & Barber, and we’ll be there for legal advice and support.

One response to “How To Respond To A Lawsuit Without An Attorney”

  1. iqbal kuria says:

    Very helpful. Gained confidence. Am responding on allegations of trespass and illegal construction.

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