There are two parties to a personal injury case: the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff is the one filing the complaint while the defendant is the one being sued. The complaint is the initiatory pleading; it starts the action and contains the facts which constitute the actionable cause. Once a complaint is filed in court, a summons is issued to the defendant(s). Without the proper service of a summons, an action or lawsuit cannot proceed. Hence it is important that the summons be served or delivered to the defendant(s) according to the rules of the court. The summons includes a copy of the complaint and requires the defendant to file a responsive pleading, which is called an answer. The answer to a summons may be filed by a personal injury lawyer or a non-lawyer., which means that yes, you can write your own response to a summons regarding an auto accident.
An answer to a complaint is essential to protect ones legal rights, not just in auto accident claims but in all personal injury claims being filed against you. It must be in writing and in accordance with the form prescribed by the rules of court. This may vary depending on the court involved, although a ready-made form is available in every court. In other jurisdictions, the summons itself may contain a form to fill up and serves as an answer. An answer must be filed within twenty days from receipt if served through personal service. If the summons is served by registered mail, the answer must be filed within thirty days from the date the summons is filed in court. To be sure, refer to the header of the summons which states the deadline for filing an answer. Failure to file an answer despite receipt and notice thereof will result in a default order. This means, you can no longer present evidence to deny or contradict the allegations by the plaintiff. You will end up being held liable for whatever the complaint states.
The first step in drafting an answer is to read the contents of the summons. The complaint, attached to the summons, states the facts which led to the lawsuit as well as the relief sought or the demand of the plaintiff. The allegations are laid down in numbered paragraphs which enumerate the cause of action for the complaint. The answer must specifically deny each and every allegation. This means that each allegation must be refuted in detail. A general denial, one that is merely couched in general terms, is not sufficient. An allegation not specifically denied or skipped is deemed admitted. If the complaint is unfounded, you can file a counterclaim. By filing a counterclaim, you are in effect saying to the court that the action against you is unfounded and therefore must be dismissed and that because of such malicious filing you want the plaintiff to compensate you for the trouble he/she has caused you. Make sure that any counterclaim is expressly spelled out in the prayer of your answer.
The answer must be signed by the defendant. It must be verified, which can be done by going to a notary public and swearing before him that the contents of answer are true in all respects and were voluntarily undertaken by the defendant. Make sure that you include a return address in the answer so that the court and the plaintiff are able to reach you in case of further proceedings. Lastly, a copy of the answer must be served to the plaintiff either to his address or his lawyer’s address.
In order to ensure that you have properly drafted a response to a summons for an auto accident or any other personal injury claim being filed against you, you should seek the assistance of a personal injury lawyer in your area.
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