Keeping It Civil: How to Respond After Receiving a Civil Summons

Written By Alla Levin
October 17, 2018

How to Respond After Receiving a Civil Summons

No one likes getting sued, but after getting served a civil summons, you’ve got to respond. In this article, we’re going to show you how. Courtrooms aren’t just for criminals. They also aren’t always like what you see on TV

Getting sued is one of the most stressful experiences that life has to offer. Thus, receiving a civil summons is a scenario none of us want to find ourselves in.The one course of action you cannot take, however, is ignoring it. But, it can be difficult to know how to react after you’ve received one. You might be scared, frustrated, angry, and even unaware of why you got summoned in the first place. 

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at what you can do.

Understand Your DeadlineKeeping It Civil How to Respond After Receiving a Civil Summons

It’s bad enough that you have to respond at all to a civil summons. To make matters worse, you often have less than 30 days to do so. It can also be notoriously difficult to dodge someone trying to give you a court summons. You can read more here about that.

The actual number of days can vary from case to case, so it’s imperative that you read your summons thoroughly. It’s also important that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible so that you can receive your legal advice in time for you to file your response.

Failure to do so could result in some very unfortunate circumstances on your end. If you don’t respond before the deadline, the party who is suing you may be able to garnish your wages or take your property via a default judgment against you due to inaction.

Take a Look At Your Options

Luckily, you have a few methods of action at your disposal after receiving a summons. Let’s explore some of the most popular.

Attempt Negotiation with the Plaintiff

If someone is upset enough with you to file a lawsuit, chances are that they’re going to want their issue settled in court. But, trying to negotiate may make your life easier and the process smoother. However, make sure you keep the deadline in mind.

File Your Answer to the SummonsFile Your Answer to the Summons

This lets the court (and the plaintiff) know that you are going to defend yourself against the plaintiff’s allegations. The main benefit of filing an answer is that you prevent the plaintiff from getting a default judgment against you, making it the most common response to a summons.

File a Motion to Dismiss

There are a handful of reasons why you may want to file for a motion to dismiss, such as if the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over you, or the summons was not served appropriately. But, the most common is that the plaintiff failed to state a legal claim in their summons (often due to the claim being too ambiguous).

If the judge sides with you, the case is dismissed. If not, you’ll have ten days following the judge’s decision to respond to the summons. If you and your lawyer feel as though you have a chance to get the case dismissed, it’s not a bad idea to take it.


This means exactly what it sounds like. You can sue the plaintiff in response for them to sue you. There are also two types of counterclaims you can make:

  • Compulsory- Your claim must be brought up during the same lawsuit because it is overwhelmingly similar to the original claim of the plaintiff.
  • For example, being sued for breaching a contract and then countersuing saying the contract was not breached.
  • Permissive- The facts of these countersuits are different enough so that they can be brought up in a separate hearing.
  • If you’re getting sued for breaching a contract, you can countersue for an unsafe work environment and have a different case entirely.

If you feel you have a strong case against the plaintiff, countersuing can help soften the financial blow of going to court.

Get a Response Ready + File It with the CourtGet a Response Ready + File It with the Court (2)

How you actually respond depends on what it is that you’re going to court to settle. A “destruction of property” response will be different than one that deals with loans or credit cards. But, the response that you file with the court is fairly generic. It simply states whether or deny or admit to the claims made by the plaintiff. You can use a template to make responding far easier.

Give Your Response to The Plaintiff

Just like how you have to give your response to the court, you also have to give your response to the plaintiff. You can send a copy of the document(s) that you sent to the court. If the plaintiff has an attorney, however, you must send it to their attorney instead. After the plaintiff receives your response, you’ll be able to begin thinking about what step to take next. Regardless of how you responded to the plaintiff, you need to…

Be Ready to Move ForwardHow to Respond After Receiving a Civil Summons_3

What happens next will depend on what response you filed. If you filed a regular answer to the plaintiff’s allegations, the case will move forward. If you decided to countersue, the plaintiff will likely respond to your allegations. Then, the case will move forward.

If you filed for a motion to dismiss, a date will be scheduled where the court makes its decision on your motion. If they do not decide in your favor and dismiss the case, then the case will move forward from this point.

Getting a Civil Summons Can Be Intimidating

But it doesn’t have to be. With the right information in mind, you’ll know exactly how to respond to your civil summons before moving forward. Want to learn more ways to make your life easier and keep stress levels down? Check out our lifestyle blog!

I Need More

Enter your Email Address to Join the
Gang of Curious and Life Loving

Related Articles