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Criminal Law

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!

Categories
Criminal Law

Guide: Louisiana Criminal Law Terms

Accessory after the fact – a person who aids or hides another person whom he believes to have committed a felony offense when the accessory intends that the offender escape prosecution.

Accomplice – a person who knowingly consents and engages in criminal conduct with another.

Acquittal – dismissal of the charge by the judge or a not guilty verdict by the jury.

Adult Age – 17 years old in Louisiana.

Alibi – an affirmative defense that the defendant was at another place during the commission of the crime.

Arraignment – criminal proceeding in which the defendant is informed of the charges against him and is asked to enter a plea.

Attempt – when a person, who has specific intent to commit a crime, does or omits an act for the purpose of accomplishing the crime. Does not matter whether or not he would have actually been able to commit the crime.

Bond – in amount of money determined by the court which must be posted to ensure that the defendant will appear in court.

Bail bondsman – an agency that may be hired to post a bond with the court in exchange for a fee by the surety.

Bond forfeiture – on the court keeps the bond that was posted because the defendant failed to appear in court.

Bench warrant – warrant issued by a judge when the defendant fails to appear at court.

Beyond a reasonable doubt – the standard of proof required by the state to prove the defendant’s guilt.

Bill of information – the formal charge filed by the District Attorney.

Bill of Particulars – statement of details filed by the state in response to defendant’s motion regarding the charge.

Booking – the process at the jail after arrest whereby identifying information is obtained by the arrestee.

Capital offense – the charge whereby the defendant could be sentenced to death.

Conspiracy – agreement or combination of 2 more offenders with a goal of committing a crime when one or more of the offenders does an act in furtherance.

Conviction – when the defendant is found guilty of committing a crime after he enters a guilty plea or is found guilty by a jury or judge.

Constitutional rights – the right to an attorney, right to a trial, right to cross-examine witnesses, right to subpoena witnesses, privilege against self-incrimination.

Crime – conduct that is defined as criminal in the Louisiana laws.

Dangerous weapon – includes any gas, liquid or other substance or instrumentality, which, in the manner used by the offender, could produce death or great bodily harm.

Expungement – process of removing an arrest or conviction from public record.

Extradition – when one state surrenders an accused that is in custody to another other state.

Felony – any crime for which offender may be sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor.

Foreseeable – that which would be ordinarily anticipated by human being of average reasonable intelligence and perception.

General criminal intent – is present whenever there is specific intent as well as when the offender, in the ordinary course of human experience, reasonably knew that the criminal consequences would follow due to his act or failure to act.

Guilty plea – when a defendant admits guilt in open court, usually under oath.

Incarceration – imprisonment in the parish jail or state prison.

Indictment – the formal charge issued by a grand jury after proceeding has been held to determine whether or not the grand jury believes there is enough evidence to justify a trial.

Initial appearance – when the defendant goes before a judge shortly after her arrest for probable cause determination.

Insanity – what circumstances indicate that because of a mental disorder, the offender was incapable of telling that mean right and wrong with reference to the illegal conduct.

Justification – when the offender’s conduct is otherwise illegal, the law provides for certain exceptions that it deems are justified.

Misdemeanor – a crime other than a felony.

Nolo Contendere – a plea of no contest, which has the same effect as a plea of guilty, but is not considered as an admission of guilt outside of the criminal court.

Parole – the release of an inmate after serving time for conviction.

Principal – all persons involved in the commission of a crime.

Probation – when the court supervises or monitors a defendant for a specified period of time as opposed to placing the defendant in jail.

Revocation – when the court revokes the proration of an offender due to the offender failing to complete conditions of probation or commits another crime. Also applicable to parole.

Sentence – the punishment ordered by the court following the defendant’s conviction, which may be agreed upon between the parties or determined solely by the judge.

Specific intent – the state of mind that exists when the circumstances indicate that the offender actively desired the prescribed criminal consequences to follow his act or failure to act.

Warrant – an order authorized by the judge allowing law enforcement officers to conduct a search or make an arrest pursuant to the probable cause stated in the affidavit, which is presented to the judge prior to his signing of the warrant.