What if I get served with Court papers?

If you get served with court papers, you are being sued by someone (person or business entity).  For the sake of this discussion, let’s say you are being sued by a creditor over a debt you did not pay (or they say you did not pay). If you don’t show up for court, the debt collector wins, right or wrong – they win and get a judgment is set against you. With a judgment in place, the debt collector has the power to garnish your wages or seize your bank account, or any bank account with your name on it.

They can sue you and garnish your wages even if they have already repossessed their collateral (such as a car, furniture, guns, etc).  They can sue you and garnish your wages even if they have foreclosed on your home if they say that there is a delinquency (the sale of the home, car, furniture, guns, etc) did not cover the entire balance you owed the creditor.

Don’t avoid being served. The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution mandates “due process” when someone is asserting a claim against a person’s “life, liberty or property.” State Constitutions have also adopted this right and passed what is called “service of process” laws that spell out how a legal document must be delivered to a defendant in a lawsuit.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that avoiding being served will avoid the consequences of being sued. It is just not true. Avoiding being served does not make the case disappear and avoiding being served could make things worse.

Being “served with process” means that due process and the statutory requirements for giving notice to a defendant (the person being sued) about the lawsuit has all been successfully met. There can be differences in the rules within states and within types of lawsuits, but it’s common to require personal service to be attempted first. Personal service is literally handing someone the piece of paper notifying them of the lawsuit. The person must be of age and there may be other requirements, but it does not necessarily mean the person being sued is handed the paper (ie: spouse, roommate, relative over 18 living with you, etc).

If personal service cannot be done, there are other ways. There are exceptions, such as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. But in all cases, there is a method to move forward in suing someone no matter how hard they fight and avoid being served.  If you would like to do some digging into Mississippi rules, check out Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. Good information here but always check with the actual Mississippi State Legislature for updates to rules and law.

It is not illegal to avoid being served but it is VERY rare that this helps you.  Often the result is that court orders and decisions are made without your knowledge or involvement at all. It could cause longer and more expensive litigation and additional fees charged to you.  You are basically forfeiting your legal rights. A judgment can be filed against you while you are still trying to “avoid” things. There is a time period that will expire on your right to defend yourself and the judge can/will issue a default judgment against you.  You may end up responsible for the default judgment, the cost of investigation and attempts to serve you, and attorney fees. Instead of avoiding service, you would have been better off working to get the case against you dismissed or defending yourself against the action contained in the lawsuit against you.

If you do not avoid service and receive the summons or copy of a lawsuit, Do. Not. Ignore. ItContact a lawyer early on to find out your options.  Take advantage of a free consultation with an attorney. Is it to your benefit to fight this lawsuit? Do you owe what the person or company is stating you owe? If you know that your debt has become overwhelming and more lawsuits are in your future, maybe a bankruptcy would be better and it would address ALL your debt concerns in one action.  Why pay an attorney to defend you one debt at a time if you know more are coming? Knowing what steps to take and having the information to decide what is best for you is the most important thing! Dealing with any legal action can be overwhelming. It is crucial to speak with a lawyer regarding the options that exist for you. Being served a summons regarding a lawsuit against you does not necessarily mean that you must attend the hearing. It is your notice to attend, your notice of what’s going on, so that you can decide what to do. Speak to an attorney. Know your options. Go with what is best for YOU and your family.

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