We’re all familiar with this movie scene: An unsuspecting character is approached by a process server. It’s clear that he is a process server because he brandishes a large white envelope and says those three little words: “You’ve been served.”
But that scene is much less entertaining when it occurs in real life. What happens when YOU are the unsuspecting character, and the white envelope is placed in your hand? What should you do if you receive a summons?
What is a summons?
Let’s begin by clearing up any misconceptions. A summons is an official court document. It informs the recipient that a complaint (or lawsuit) has been filed against them, and it requires the recipient to respond with a written “answer.” It signals the beginning of a legal case.
In Arkansas, you’ll see the following information in the document:
- Name and seal of the issuing court
- Date and signature of the court clerk
- Names of both the plaintiff (person filing the complaint/suit) and defendant (person receiving the summons)
- Contact information for the plaintiff’s lawyer, if any
- A statement that “A lawsuit has been filed against you”
- Information that tells the defendant when and how he/she must respond to the summons
- A notification that if the defendant chooses not to respond, the court may issue a “judgment by default”
Because the recipient must sign to show that he/she received it, a summons is typically delivered by another person, often called a process server. In some cases, though, it may be delivered through certified mail.
What should I do if I receive a summons?
Do not ignore it.
It bears repeating: do not ignore a summons. It may be tempting to throw it away and pretend that you never received it, but this will only make matters worse.
You’ll need to respond to the summons by the given deadline. In Arkansas, that deadline is typically 30 days from the time that you received it. If you don’t reply, the court may issue a “default judgment,” meaning that the plaintiff wins the case and the defendant is required to meet their demands. You could even have your wages garnished or personal property seized. Once a default judgment is issued, you can no longer contest the case.
How can I reply to a summons?
You can reply to a summons yourself, but it’s not typically recommended. Unless the summons is to small claims court, we strongly recommend consulting a lawyer. Drafting a response can be very complex. Your answer must follow a specific outline, and it should answer all allegations listed in the complaint. If you don’t specifically deny an allegation in your response, it may be deemed “admitted,” as though you admitted it was true.
If you received a summons, you have options. An experienced lawyer will help you determine which option will be best for you and your family.
Taylor King Law: On Your Side, By Your Side
Do you need legal representation? Are you looking for an attorney you can trust? Call Taylor King Law today. With more than two decades of experience and offices across Arkansas, you can trust Taylor King to be On Your Side, By Your Side.
If you have questions, you can begin with a FREE, no-obligation consultation online. Call 1-800-CAR WRECK or visit our website at taylorkinglaw.com to contact our expert legal team.