It’s something everyone hopes they’ll never have to experience: learning that you’re being sued. But with 1,374,060 new civil cases in Texas courts in 2016, it happens quite a bit. If you’re being sued in Texas, you need to know what to do, what not to do and who to call.
Fortunately for Texas Legal members, if you’re sued in civil court, your legal insurance covers your defense. But before you have time to call an attorney, here’s what to do if you’re sued in Texas, with advice from Texas Legal network attorney C. Martin Gall.
“When people become aware that there is a lawsuit against them, they know it’s not good, but there’s a lot of confusion over what they need to do. They’re often wondering, ‘Is there any way I can get out of this?’ There’s a lot of stress and sometimes anger,” says Gall.
Step One: Gather Information
Before you call an attorney or meet a lawyer for a consultation, gather all the information you can on your case, including any documents you have.
“The first thing that I would have them do is just look at the situation you’re being sued over . Then try to gather up anything on paper that you feel would be relevant to that situation,” says Gall. “A lot of people get so flustered and nervous that they don’t do a good job of trying to wrap their minds around the whole situation. Then their first meeting with a lawyer isn’t that helpful because they don’t have the information they need.”
Make a bulleted list with timeline of the situation involved in the legal proceeding and an overview of everything that’s happened. Then gather any correspondence or documents related to the case. That could include contracts, the notice of the lawsuit, and any communication you’ve had with the other party, including texts or emails.
“A lot of people don’t realize that a text message can be the basis of a contract,” says Gall. “Share any kind of correspondence you’ve had with the other party, even if it doesn’t seem official.”
Step Two: Find the Right Attorney
Although there are a lot of folks who attempt to handle a lawsuit on their own, Gall advises at least speaking with an attorney about your case, even if you don’t hire one to represent you.
“Just talking to an attorney can make you aware of the rights you have,” says Gall.
Beyond that initial consultation, Gall recommends hiring an attorney if possible. Even if your matter is relatively simple, he says the legal system can be complex and difficult to understand.
“There are a lot procedural things that seem really foreign and rules that have to be followed. The average person isn’t used to dealing with those things. That’s where I see [people representing themselves] making the most errors,” says Gall.
How should you use an attorney? Gall says that experience is is a good guide. Look for an attorney who has experience in the kind of lawsuit you’re dealing with.
“Look for someone who knows the ins and outs of the law in that particular area. You can’t go wrong with someone who’s got a proven track record,” says Gall.
Step Three: Let Your Attorney Handle It
Although you might be tempted to reach out to the other party, Gall advises against it.
“If you’re going to hire an attorney, leave it up to an attorney to handle the case,” says Gall. “If you go and talk to the other side , you might end up accidentally give away some information that will cost you. Let the professionals handle it.”
Step Four: Anticipate the Outcome
Although some lawsuits do go to court, Gall says the majority of lawsuits end up with a settlement. That’s usually best for clients, who want things resolved quickly and inexpensively, without a long drawn-out court battle.
“When you go to trial, you never know how it’s going to turn out. You think it might work in your favor, and there’s no way that a jury can try against us, but sometimes they do,” says Gall.
Also, realize that even a settlement might take several months to a resolve and a court case might go on for a year or more. Legal issues can take awhile to resolve because of the procedures involved and slow pace of the court system.
Step Five: Take a Deep Breath
Although most people panic over the idea of a getting sued, Gall reminds clients not to get too stressed.
“It’s not the end of the world. It’s going to be okay. Everything will get resolved, and you’ll be able to move on with life,” he says.
One good way to keep your legal stress at a minimum? Get a legal plan. If you’re not already a Texas Legal member, find out more about our legal plans for individuals and our employer-offered group plans.