What to Do When Served Legal Papers
Do's & Don'ts Upon Service of Legal Papers
in New York State
Being served with legal papers can be
frightening and stressful but do not worry -- if you are reading this, you are
already on the right track.
The service of legal papers means that someone
is giving you legal papers that require you to respond to, or be aware of,
a legal matter.
Use of Legal Papers. Many legal matters involve the service of legal
papers. The service of legal papers is also the way lawsuits are usually
started. The service of legal papers could simply be a subpoena, which is a
legal paper requiring you to appear at a designated time and place, usually
a court or an attorney's office, to answer questions about a legal matter.
What is a Lawsuit? A lawsuit is usually a
claim for damages in the form of money claimed to be owed by the defendant
to the plaintiff for one or more legal reasons, for example, breach of contract,
accident, assault, etc.
Infrequently, a lawsuit could be started to
require the defendant to do or not do something, for example, sell the property
that the defendant agreed to sell when the defendant signed a contract.
Losing a Lawsuit. If the defendant loses
a lawsuit, usually the result is a judgment awarded by the court for a sum
of money to be paid to the plaintiff by the defendant.
In the infrequent lawsuit where the defendant is
required to do or not do something, the court will order the defendant who
loses the lawsuit to do
or not do what the plaintiff has requested.
Do Not Ignore Legal Papers. If you received legal papers, you may have been
"sued". If you have been sued, and you ignore the papers, a judgment could
be filed against you. If a judgment is filed against you, the judgment could
ruin your credit and could result in the seizure of your property and your
In the infrequent lawsuit where the plaintiff
wants you to do or not do something, if you ignore the legal papers and a
judgment is filed against you, you could be arrested and jailed at least
until you comply.
Dibble & Miller, P.C. Can Help. With the combined litigation experience of many
attorneys at Dibble & Miller, P.C., have protected and defended their clients
in court against a wide range of matters involving legal papers and
If you are served legal papers, it is strongly
recommended that you retain a lawyer immediately.
Do's & Don'ts Upon Receipt of Legal Papers.
We have provided below some important suggestions to consider when you
receive legal papers:
Save Everything When You
Receive Legal Papers. If
the papers come in an envelope, be sure to save it too. Do not write on
the papers that you receive, including the envelope. Your lawyer will
want to see everything you get. A resourceful lawyer
with complete information is a powerful ally.
someone hands you, or tries to hand you, legal papers, or leaves them in
front of or by you, you have been served. Do not leave
the papers behind, or throw them away, or not pick them up if they are
dropped or left by you.
Receive Multiple Copies?
Sometimes the law requires that you be served in various ways, such as by
regular and certified mail and by leaving a copy at your home or business.
This is a normal practice to make sure you
receive the papers and have time to prepare a response with your lawyer. Again, SAVE
Say Nothing. Anything you say could be
used against you.
Your lawyer will know what to say or do after meeting with you and reading
the papers, including possibly counter-suing if the papers are the start of
talk with a process server (if you want, you can say, "You'll hear from my
lawyer!" if it makes you feel good).
not contact the person who sent you the papers.
you are being sued, do not talk to the person or company who is suing you.
not talk to any lawyer who represents the adversary listed on the papers.
Keep A Record
of How You
Got the Papers. Write down the time, date, place and how you received the
legal papers, and, if possible, the name of the person (often called a
process server) who delivered them (or a description of the
person). The name or description of the person who delivered papers
may be helpful, but is not crucial if the information cannot be obtained.
Make Notes of Any Facts About the Papers. Make notes of any
information that you know about the subject matter of the papers.
Any private record that you make with the intention of later
showing it only to your lawyer (and that you do not share with anyone
else) is privileged--no one else can see it and it cannot be used against
you. Feel free to write down your thoughts so you can go over them with
Do Not Ignore Legal Papers.
In New York State and in Federal Courts, you could lose a lawsuit
automatically or even be jailed if you ignore the time requirements set
forth in certain legal papers.
Protect Your Rights. You have MANY rights. Experienced lawyers,
including the lawyers at our firm, spent years studying how to protect
their clients even when the situation seems bad to the client.
Capable and Experienced
Lawyer. You should find a lawyer you trust and can communicate well
with as a person. If you are comfortable with the lawyer that you select,
that's a good start. Ask that lawyer if he or she has handled cases
like yours. Ask that lawyer how he or she fought for and protected their
Tell Your Lawyer Everything.
You should tell your lawyer everything about the subject matter of the
legal papers, do not hold back any information. If you do not want the
lawyer to use certain information, tell the lawyer the information that
you do not want to be used, and why you do not want it to be used.
Discuss with your lawyer
whether or not you are correct in holding back certain information. One of
the worst things that can happen to a lawyer is to be "blind-sided" (by
not knowing something that the other side knows or may find out) when the
lawyer is attempting to resolve a legal matter. If the lawyer knows
that certain information cannot be used, the lawyer can attempt to minimize
the effect of not using the information.
at Dibble & Miller, P.C.. Our firm will waive the consultation fee
for the first meeting and
even speak with you by telephone at a time convenient to you (yes, we work
nights and weekends too!). During the first meeting, we will attempt to provide the
will discuss the subject matter of the papers with you.
We will advise you of your
We will give you a preliminary
plan of how we will handle the subject matter of
We will give you our initial
thoughts about the likelihood of the outcome
the subject matter of the papers.
will estimate how much it will cost to handle the subject matter of the
We will estimate
the anticipated time it will take to complete the resolution of the
subject matter of the papers.
We will give you a written
document listing your rights as a client.
We will give you a written
Retainer Agreement. This agreement will set forth in writing all of the
financial obligations that we agree upon.
We will inform you of the
computer services at our firm available to assist you to resolve the
matters in the legal papers.
suggestions are for informational purposes only and to assist you when you
contact your lawyer and are not legal advice or a substitute for legal
counsel. This information is not intended to create, and use of it
does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship or the rendering of