Take These Steps When You Have Been Served A Summons

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You may think you have a good reason for not responding to the summons you were served last month. At the time you received the summons you could not afford an attorney.


By time you were able to borrow enough money to hire an attorney it was more than a month past your required response date. Now you’re hoping the judge will accept your reason as a good excuse.


Unfortunately, since you failed to show for your original court date, there is almost nothing you can say that will persuade the judge in your favor. Judges are unbending when it comes to a defendant’s failure to appear.


If you had shown up for court and explained your money problems to the judge, he may have granted you what is called a “continuance,” which would have extended time to you in order to find and pay for an attorney.


If you have received a summons, it means that someone is suing you. Knowing what to do when you are served with a summons will help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that typically goes along with being sued.


Following are some steps to take when you are served with a summons, which will also be accompanied by the complaint. First and foremost is to take these two documents seriously because they are what begin any kind of litigation.


  • Contact a lawyer immediately – Do not drag your feet. Once you are served with the summons and complaint, you have twenty to thirty days to respond to the lawsuit. So note the date and time of service, then contact a lawyer as quickly as possible for several reasons.


  • If you procrastinate until a few days before the deadline to respond, your lawyer will be severely limited in his range of actions. If you should fail to respond on time, a default will be entered against you preventing you from defending the action altogether, unless the default is set aside, which will probably result in extra legal fees.


  • Scan any insurance policies – Sometimes insurance policies cover various allegations. Make copies of the policies for your attorney to evaluate. A policy might cover attorneys’ fees and costs of defending the lawsuit.


  • Understand the allegations  – Complaints often contain unfamiliar wording, so have your lawyer explain the allegations and consequences in terms that you can understand. If you fully comprehend the allegations, then you might be able to locate key documents and evidence for the attorney, saving on attorneys’ fees.


  • Preserve any evidence – Evidence takes on many forms: emails, receipts, timecards, or contracts, to name a few.  Regardless of the form, it is often central to your lawsuit. Therefore, once located, keep it in a safe place.


  • Pinpoint witnesses – Identify as many witnesses as possible — both good and bad — that witnessed the incidents alleged in the complaint.


  • Be discreet — When served with a summons and complaint, resist the emotional urge to call the complaining party or a friend. Instead call an attorney.


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When to get an attorney and when not to get one!

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To Hire or Not to Hire?


“Your Honor, I object!” How many times have you heard that on a TV show? Often times the judge’s response is along the lines of “On what grounds?” It is then the attorney’s job to explain why he thinks what the other attorney is doing is wrong. The reasons can range anywhere from leading the witness, to badgering the witness, to showing off. The fact of the matter is, however, that it is the attorneys who know what to look for in these cases.


It is their job, and they have received a high level of training in order to make themselves qualified for the position of defending you. The question many people ask themselves, especially in today’s economy, is “when do I get an attorney involved?” The truth is, attorneys are expensive, and many times people don’t see a need for them.


If a person has the time to do his own research and the case is not a serious one, a diligent person could probably run the case mostly on his own. But how many people have the time to thoroughly do the necessary research? How many people even know where to start when it comes to researching their case?


Most of the time, people who try to run their case on their own tend to create a bigger mess than they had to begin with, and wind up hiring a lawyer in the end anyway just to clean up the mess for them. When this happens, fixing the mess often leads to more expenses than would have normally been incurred, and the client would have been better off hiring an attorney from the start.


Some of the benefits of hiring a lawyer are:


  • Getting the work done: That is, after all, what attorneys are being paid to do. They have the resources and the time to focus on the research for your case and have a vast amount of knowledge regarding different cases, so they generally know what they are doing.


  • Resources: Have you ever tried to work your full time job while trying to learn something completely new without a teacher? You just won’t have the time to do one of them properly, and most likely it won’t be your day job. Most law firms are equipped with several attorneys as well as paralegals that have nothing better to do than work on your case. Doing research and determining how specific laws apply to your case is what they are in business for.
  • Education and experience: Lawyers have at least three years of law school, in addition to however many years of work experience they have acquired. This means that they have exposure to obscure cases that may apply to you, in addition to knowing what each law says and how to apply it to your case. They  know what they are doing, and in this business, that is hard to beat.


The only real downside to hiring a lawyer is the cost. However, when you look at the benefits of having an attorney, it is difficult to choose not to. So the answer to the question “When do I get an attorney involved?” is  “As soon as possible.”

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How to Pick a Good Attorney, Abowitz Law Offices

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Choosing a lawyer can be a daunting task, as there is so much to consider. Obviously, you want a lawyer who can deliver the best possible results for your case, but preferably without emptying your bank account.


The first step is to identify your needs. Determine what type of case you have — civil, real estate, disability, etc. — and look into the steps needed to file for the case. The more informed you are about the process, the easier it is to know what you need your lawyer to do for you. You must also decide whether you will need a general attorney or a specialized attorney.


Once you have identified what type of lawyer you need, do not be afraid to vocalize your search for one. Referrals can come from anywhere: family, friends, a cashier, teller or loan officer at your bank. Anyone you come in contact with may know the perfect attorney for you.


Of course, you shouldn’t choose a lawyer on reputation alone. There exist many free online referral services, which list local lawyers and their specialties. Sometimes these online services even provide ratings, reviews, and success rates.


Additional referrals include local sources, such as your area’s Chamber of Commerce or especially your local law library. For advice in cases of divorce or adoption, consider non-profit organizations, such as women or family counseling.


After narrowing down your list of prospects, you should contact each attorney and ask to meet them in person. As a general rule, if an attorney doesn’t offer a free face-to-face consultation of at least thirty minutes, it could indicate that they value their time above yours. Likewise, however, when you find one that is willing to meet with you, be sure to come well prepared so as to make the most of your consultation.


Bring an outline of your needs, any pertinent details and all documentation that supports those details. During the interview, try to gauge if the lawyer’s personality is one you will be comfortable working with.


You want legal representation that is confident but not overly so. For example, a capable attorney should be able to outline a basic strategy, but should never guarantee that he can win your case, as it is impossible to guarantee a sure win.


Lastly, the questions you ask could be the deciding factor in your choice. Therefore, it is important to ask how you can contact him with questions or concerns. You want an attorney that is willing to make time for you and your case, so he should indicate a willingness to meet personally with you as needed. Upon request, a good attorney should be able to provide a timetable of how soon the paperwork can be filed.


To keep fees to a minimum some attorneys will allow you to do as much of the research, filing, etc. as possible. Most good attorneys will understand and respect your need to monitor the costs closely.


Armed with this information and a clear plan, choosing the right attorney for you should be a rewarding and less stressful experience.

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