It can happen to almost anyone: you’re going about your business, and you are served with a Plaintiff’s Claim, which is to say, you are facing a lawsuit. You are now the defendant and you need to prepare to go to court to defend yourself against the plaintiff. For most people – those who have never been to court before – this can be an overwhelming moment. What are you supposed to do? What is your first step? How do you prepare? Although a lawsuit is never an easy thing to navigate, you can handle it when you know the routine and have a lawyer on your side. Here is what you need to know.

Can You Settle Out of Court

Firstly, it is entirely possible for you to settle the matter without even going to court. You could talk to the plaintiff and resolve the dispute. If you can’t settle the matter like that, you can try mediation. However, if mediation is also unsuccessful, you will need to prepare for court. 

How To Prepare for Court

Mediation has failed and your court date is looming. The first thing you should do is meet your lawyer and bring two copies of any documents that could help prove your case. These could include police reports, canceled checks, receipts, contracts, repair estimates, medical records and photographs. You can also present witnesses who could testify on your behalf in court. All your evidence needs to be submitted and received at least ten days before the court date.

Choosing The Right Court

As a defendant, you don’t really get to choose the court – unless the wrong court was chosen in the first place. The suit must be filed at the correct location, or venue. You have to be sued at a court that is closest to where you live, where the damage, dispute or injury took place, or where the contract in question was signed. If you believe the suit has been filed in the wrong court, you can file a venue challenge letter.

Can a Lawyer Represent Me in Court?

If you are being sued in small claims court, then both you and the plaintiff are required either to represent yourselves or engage a lawyer to assist and represent you. 

There are three different categories of civil lawsuits, based on the amounts of money involved. If the amount is less than $7,500, the case goes to small claims court. Here, both the plaintiff and the defendant are required to represent themselves. Lawyers do not appear in court for these cases. An attorney can only step in if the defendant appeals or if either of the parties schedule a Judgment Debtor Hearing.

If the amount is between $7,500 and $25,000, the case is described as a “limited civil” case. In such cases, a lawyer can be engaged to represent you during the court proceedings. Finally, if the amount exceeds $25,000, the case is regarded as “unlimited civil.” It is always best to have a lawyer on your side for these cases, in which the stakes are much higher. At Westover Law, our focus is on unlimited civil cases.  

How We Can Help You Prepare for Court

As a family and civil law practice in Riverside County, we can assist you in preparing for your court appearance during an unlimited civil law case (i.e. where amounts of $25,000 or more are at stake). We can help you assemble your evidence and prepare yourself and your witnesses for the court date. 

Westover Law is one of the leading firms of family law attorneys in Southern California. Our experienced attorneys are equipped to handle all areas of family law, and will easily be able to guide you through what to do when you’re being sued. Contact us for more information.