How to Answer if You Get Sued
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
What should I do if I get sued?
If you get served with court papers, look at them immediately. Sometimes people don't want to look at court papers because it's unpleasant. But the sooner you read them, the faster you can take action. Dealing with the court papers quickly will help you in the long run.
First, look at the "Summons". This will tell you who is suing you. It also tells you which court the case is in. Finally, the summons tells you how many days you have to answer.
What happens if I don't file an answer?
You must file an answer with the court in the number of days that the summons gives you. If you don't file an answer with the court, the court can enter a judgment against you. That can happen without notice to you. That means the person suing you would win.
Should I ask an attorney to look at my court papers?
Yes. You should always try to talk to an attorney if you get sued. The sooner you call, the more likely it is that you can get an attorney to help you. Different kinds of cases require different kinds of answers. It is impossible for us to tell you on this web site what kind of answer you need to file. If you leave out information that is required in your answer, you may lose your case or get a worse result than what you want. Only an attorney can give you the legal advice about what you need to put into your answer.
If you are low-income, you can call the Montana Legal Services HelpLine at 1-800-666-6899. And, if you want to find a private attorney to help you, you can call the Montana State Bar Lawyer Information and Referral Service at 406-449-6577.
Can I file my own answer?
Yes. There are links in the paragraphs below to answer forms. But those forms may not be the right kind for you. You should talk to an attorney first, before you use the forms. If you leave out information that is required in your answer, you may lose your case or get a worse result than what you want. Only an attorney can give you the legal advice about what you need to put into your answer.
Does it cost money to file an answer?
Yes. It costs money to file an answer. You can find out how much by calling the clerk of the court in which you got sued. You can click here to find contact information for the court in which you were sued.
What can i do if I don't have the money to file an answer?
You can ask the court to waive your filing fees. You do that by filing a form with the court. Please note that it may take the court several days to decide if it can waive your fees or not. Your answer cannnot be filed until the filing fee waiver is decided. So you must file the form to ask that your filing fees get waived several days before your answer is due. Otherwise you risk not being able to file your answer until after the deadline has passed. That could result in a judgment against you. Click here for more information on filing fee waivers and a form.
How do I file my own answer?
You will need to complete an answer.. (An answer can also be called a response.) You can use an answer form. Several of the available forms in Montana are linked below. If you don't see the answer form you need, you can look on the State Law Libary web site at: www.lawlibrary.mt.gov.
- Click here for a form to answer a petition for dissolution.
- Click here for a form to answer a petition for parenting plan. (If you want to file your own proposed parenting plan with your answer, click here for a parenting plan form to use.)
- Click here for a form to answer your landlord's complaint to evict you.
- Click here for general answer forms for all civil courts in Montana.
- Click here for a form to answer a civil complaint in the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribal Court.
Warning: As we stated, you should talk to an attorney before you use any of these answer forms. If you use the wrong one or leave out information that is required, you may lose your case or get a worse result than what you want.
Your answer should always answer each of the allegations the person suing you makes about you and the case. (An allegation is a statement that the person makes about you and the case. For example, an allegation would be: "Defendant did not pay for the work performed in March, 2009.")
You should admit or deny each allegation made about you and the case. For each, write down "admit" or "deny." If part of an allegation is true and part is false, you can admit part and deny part. To use the example in the paragraph above, you could say: "I the Defendant admit that the work was performed in March, 2009, but I deny that I did not pay."
If you don't know whether an allegation is true or false, you can write: "I don't have enough information to admit or deny the allegation, so I deny it."
I have my own complaints against the person who sued me. Can I sue that person?
- If your problem with the person who sued you is related to the situation that you got sued about, you can file a "Counterclaim."
- For non-parenting plan cases you can use a counterclaim form. If you don't file your counterclaim at the time you file your answer, you might lose the opportunity to ask the court to deal with that problem. You can find a counterclaim form on the State of Montana Law Library web site at:http://courts.mt.gov/library/topic/civil_forms.mcpx.
- If you are answering a petition for parenting plan and want to propose your own parenting plan to the court, you will need to file a proposed parenting plan form with your answer documents. Click here for a parenting plan form you can file along with your answer documents to show the court what you want.
We strongly advise you to seek advice from an attorney if you think you have counterclaims.
Okay, I've drafted an answer. What do I do now?
You need to make at least two copies. Then, take it to the court where the case against you was filed, and have the clerk file your answer. Make sure that you get it filed before the deadline. To be safe, you should try to file it a few days before the deadline. You should always send a copy of the answer that you file to the person who sued you. If that person is represented by an attorney, send it to the attorney.
I need more information about how to file an answer. Who should I call?
1. Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) provides free civil legal assistance to low-income people. If you need help with a legal problem and believe you may qualify for assistance, please call the MLSA HelpLine at 1-800-666-6899.
2. Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) provides free help finding an attorney. Call the LRIS at 1-406-449-6577.
3. State Law Library provides help finding legal information. Visit the Law Library Web site at http://www.lawlibrary.mt.gov.
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