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Receiving a Car Accident Court Summons: What to Do Next

You are at fault in a traffic accident so you pay the ticket to resolve the matter. You are shocked when you later receive a court summons.  Now, what do you do?

A summons is an official notice to the recipient that they are being sued. The summons arrives with the complaint stating the allegations made against you and requests the court to award a sum of money to the Plaintiff.

If you receive service of a car accident court summons, it is imperative that you respond within the required time frame to avoid being found in default. A default means you have not answered, and the Plaintiff wins their lawsuit.

Read on to learn how to protect yourself if you are being sued.

I Received a Car Accident Court Summons – Now What?

When you receive a summons and complaint, the clock immediately starts ticking. To make sure the deadline for response is not missed, make a note of the date on which you receive service.  The 2011 Louisiana Laws Code of Civil Procedure CCP 1001 states that you must file the answer to a complaint within 15 days of receiving service unless otherwise provided by law.

You have the choice of representing yourself, called going pro se, or hiring an attorney who specialized in civil lawsuits.

Going pro se may seem like a money-saving option, but it can cost you far more in the end if you lose the case. A reputable civil law attorney will have solid client reviews showing their expertise in law. They will know how to review car accident records, demand discovery, conduct depositions, file and answer motions, subpoena medical records, and present evidence in court.

The Lawsuit Process

The first step after you receive a summons or complaint is to prepare an answer. You must follow proper court format, which includes the appropriate header, answering each allegation in the same numbered format as the complaint, and including your prayers for relief.

In answering each of the allegations as “admitted as true” or denied as untrue” and providing the reason it is untrue, you are establishing the areas you contest in the lawsuit. These are the factors that must be either negotiated for a settlement or will be decided before a judge.

Do You Have the Right to a Jury Trial?

The value the Plaintiff is alleging in the original pleadings determines whether or not you may request a jury trial. If the Plaintiff’s complaint values the case at less than $50,000 then neither party a right to request a jury pursuant to the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure, Article 1732.

Filing for Exceptions

In Louisiana, Defendants have the right to file “exceptions” to the lawsuit. This includes things such as claiming that the lawsuit is too vague, or is “prescribed” because it was untimely filed.

Another exception would be if the filing took place in the wrong venue, meaning location. The court is likely to waive exceptions unless they are filed before or with the answer.

Pretrial and Scheduling Conference

The court may require the parties and attorneys in a lawsuit to appear before the court for a pretrial conference. The matters discussed at this conference may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Simplifying the issues, including eliminating any frivolous claims or defenses
  • Whether amendments to the pleadings need to be filed
  • What material facts and issues have no substantial controversy
  • What material facts and issues are in good faith controverted
  • Proof or stipulations regarding the authenticity of documents
  • Advance rulings from the court on the admissibility of evidence
  • Limitations, regulations, or restrictions on expert testimony under the Louisiana Code of Evidence Article 702
  • Control and scheduling of discovery and any issues regarding disclosure
  • Identifying witnesses, documents and exhibits

Following the pretrial and scheduling conference, the court will issue an order that recites the agreements made and actions taken at the conference.  All attorneys and parties must comply with the order or be subject to sanction by the court pursuant to LA Code Civ Pro 1551

Louisiana does not have a statute that sets forth a time requirement on when a case must be complete. Litigation can take months or years, depending on the complexity of the case.

Discovery

Discovery is an all-encompassing term for obtaining evidence to support your position. This begins with accident reports, medical records, and witness statements. 

Either party may file interrogatories, requests for admission, and requests for production of documents. Interrogatories are questions presented in writing and answered in writing under oath.

Requests for Admission are statements the other party wants you to admit or deny. Again, you must reply in writing under oath. If you do not respond they may be deemed admitted.

The response to a Request for Production of Documents must be in writing and include the documents requested or an objection and reason for the objection.

Depositions are verbal testimony done with the attorneys before a court recorder. The person being deposed may be a witness or a party to the lawsuit.  Testimony is under oath and may be entered into court in lieu of live testimony.

The most frequent use of depositions is to obtain information. They may be used during the trial to accuse a witness of perjury if they give different factual statements on a witness stand then they gave under oath during a deposition.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

When negotiating a lawsuit, it is common for the parties to participate in alternative dispute resolution. This is a process in which the parties agree to allow an outside mediator to review the merits of the case. The parties agree to be legally bound by the mediator’s assessment of the case.

Don’t Hesitate to Act

A good legal defense attorney brings peace of mind. If you have been served with a car accident court summons do not hesitate to contact the Barkemeyer Law Firm. With three convenient locations in Covington, Metairie, and New Orleans, we are never far away. Schedule your consultation today!