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Definition - What does Summons mean?

A personal injury Summons is a notice to the defendant to respond to a filed Complaint.

The Complaint is a legal document which details the injury claims of the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit. After the Complaint is filed the appropriate state official or process server will personally deliver the Summons to the defendant. The defendant will then have a specific amount of time to respond to the Complaint and attend the court hearing.

What information is on the Summons?

As the name suggests, the Summons requires the defendant in an injury claim to answer the plaintiff’s Complaint. The Summons will include:

  • The name and address of the defendant
  • The state and county in which the plaintiff has filed their personal injury claim
  • The court where the case has or will be filed
  • Information about how to respond to the Summons

If you, as the defendant, fail to respond to the Summons within the appointed time, the court will assume the Complaint is accurate and will rule in favor of the plaintiff.

Responding to a personal injury Summons

If you have been served with a Summons notifying you of a lawsuit against you the most important thing to do is file a Response. Do not ignore the Summons; it will not go away.

After receiving the Summons you have several options. You can contact an attorney immediately and discuss your case or you can fight the case on your own. If you decide not to hire a lawyer, you will need to file a response by the specified deadline. For most civil lawsuits, you will have either twenty or thirty days to file a response with the court.

There are several responses available after you have received a Summons, but the most common is an Answer. In your Answer you can either admit the allegations made by the plaintiff are true or you can deny the allegations.

If you deny the allegations you are telling the court you do not believe the allegations made against you by the plaintiff and you are going to force the plaintiff to prove their personal injury case. If you decide to deny the allegations, however, you will need to identify the reasons you are not liable for the plaintiff’s losses. This is also the time to raise any affirmative defenses you might have such as the statute of limitations has expired or there was an assumption of risk by the plaintiff.

Finally, you will need to send a copy of the Response to the Plaintiff and to the appropriate court.

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