Why Receiving a Served Lawsuit Isn’t the End of the World


Having problems on how to serve a lawsuit? Go over a number of documents at Bournakis & Mitchell, P.C to get more ideas on how to initiate a lawsuit or ask for a lawyer for legal opinion by contacting us today.

What Does Being Served Mean in Law?

Each party to a lawsuit must be notified of legal measures being taken against them, as stipulated by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

No court can make a finding against you until you have received adequate information about the case and an opportunity to present your defense.

“Service of process” is the procedure through which a person is informed that legal action is being conducted against them.

To comply with the Constitution, plaintiffs must ensure that defendants receive a copy of the plaintiff’s service form and the court summons. The term “process” refers to these documents collectively.

What Type of Legal Document Can You Expect to be Served With?

A process in Georgia is comprised of a complaint and a summons. These documents outline the following information:

  • An explanation of why you wish the court to grant your motion or stay your trial (or both)

  • Explanation of how the defendant’s conduct harmed you and how that harm justifies the damages sought

  • Explanation on why the evidence presented by the other side will be irrelevant in support of their case or that you have an alternate theory of liability that explains all relevant facts

  • Explanation of why evidence offered by one side cannot be used against another

  • Showing that was no need for discovery before trial and providing an alternative method of resolving disputes.


Requirements for a Valid Summons

In general, for a federal summons such as a bankruptcy claim to be valid and enforceable, it should satisfy the following guidelines:

  • Identify the court and any parties involved, as well as their names

  • Addressed to the defendant

  • Provide a timeline within which the defendant must appear in court and make their case

  • Identify the plaintiff and their bankruptcy lawyer, or if they are unrepresented, identify the plaintiff personally, together with their names and addresses

  • Describe the sanctions if the defendant doesn’t show up

  • Be signed by the clerk of the federal court that issued the order and the court’s official seal.

How to Serve a Lawsuit

Service of process can be done through a traditional route of using a process server, or it may be done simply by acknowledgment. Using a process server makes it more difficult for a defendant to challenge service. While acknowledgment is cheaper and more straightforward, it is more open to being challenged.

The first step of traditional service is usually providing the sheriff of the relevant court a copy of the complaint, summons, and sheriff’s entry of service form.

Once the complaint has been filed, the clerk issues a summons and delivers it for service. A plaintiff can request to have separate or additional summons.

Service by the sheriff usually takes two to three weeks. During this time, a sheriff’s deputy will complete the form and mail it back to the filing party.

Contact a debt settlement attorney today to discuss the legal process of serving a lawsuit for your case.

Can Someone Else Accept Served Papers?

Process documents usually need to be personally served upon the defendant. This type of service is known as personal service.

However, in most states, the court may allow you to accept papers on behalf of another in specific circumstances, also known as substituted service.

The court will only permit substitute service when:

  • A defendant has died or become incapacitated, and 

  • They have no legal heirs or personal representatives who can accept service on their behalf.

For papers filed through a probate court to be properly served through substitute service, the person receiving the papers must be named as an administrator of the estate by filing an affidavit with the court clerk and paying a small fee.

What Should I Do When I Have Been Served With a Lawsuit?

The ideal course of action when you have been served with a lawsuit is to prepare a response to the court papers served to you and show up to court when you’re supposed to.

This will allow you to defend yourself and present your side of the story. For example, suppose you believe that you don’t owe a debt or that the amount a creditor is suing is incorrect. In that case, you can present evidence to support your claim. 

If you receive a summons but fail to respond, the court can issue a default judgment against you. This means the other party officially wins the court case and can collect damages from you. Damages could include placing a garnish on your wages or levy on other assets such as bank accounts and vehicles until you have paid your debt in full.

The court can also sue defendants for failure to appear in court or pay their obligations. In some cases, they can also order someone to show up in court for a hearing date and to provide proof of their financial status.

The court may also issue a warrant for arrest if they believe you have not paid your debt in full by a specific date. 

What to Do When Served With a Lawsuit

Upon being served with legal papers for a lawsuit filed against you or your company, it is time to move quickly to protect your legal rights.

Even if you have only been served on behalf of a member of your household or company, you should still contact a qualified litigation attorney from a reputable law firm. They can advise you on your options and what steps to take next.


How long do you have to respond to a served lawsuit?

You typically have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit after filing it. You will default if you have not responded by then.


Is Being Served a Lawsuit Taking a Toll on You?


Just because you have been served with a lawsuit does not mean that your business is doomed. You can do several things to minimize the damage and even come out on top.

As a first step, take advantage of a free consultation from Bournakis & Mitchell, P.C to learn how we can help you protect your business from bankruptcy.

An experiencedtrustworthy bankruptcy attorney can relieve your burden by organizing the necessary documents and building a robust defense for your bankruptcy case.

Contact Our Firm