Q: What do I do if I get sued?
A. Generally, you learn of a lawsuit when a process server or constable appears at your door with a copy of the lawsuit and asks you to sign a receipt for it. You, or your company, have a limited amount of time to file a response with the court. The response must be filed approximately 20 days after you are served with the lawsuit. If the suit was filed in the Justice of the Peace Court, you are allowed 10 days. You should consult an attorney at once. It is very dangerous to ignore a lawsuit. Unless a response is filed, the court will give the plaintiff a judgment against you.
If you believe that you, or your company, have insurance coverage for the subject of the lawsuit you should contact your agent. Your insurance company may hire and pay for your lawyer. However, whether you have insurance or not, you should not let the lawsuit go unanswered.
Q: What do the various courts do?
A. There are federal and state courts in Texas. The federal courts are for cases that involve people or companies from different states, for instance, you are in Texas but the company you want to sue is located in Oklahoma. Federal courts also deal with issues related to federal law such as patents and maritime issues. The federal courts also deal with bankruptcy matters. State courts are divided primarily by the amount of money that is involved although the subject of the lawsuit can be important as well. Justice of the Peace Courts are for lawsuits involving less than $5,000.00. They are also the courts that handle evictions. The County Courts handle cases involving lawsuits up to $100,000.00. These courts also handle probate matters. In some counties they are also allowed to handle disputes over real estate and divorces. The District Courts have no limit on the amount of the controversy. These courts also handle disputes over real estate and divorces.
Q: If I sue someone, how long will it take to get a judgment?
A. There is no certain answer to this. Generally, one gets to trial faster in the County Courts than in the District Courts, but not always. A good rule of thumb is eighteen months. The Courts in Harris County, Texas try to set cases for trial within this time. If your case is set for trial that is no guarantee it will be tried. Sometimes older cases are also set for the same week. The older cases are usually disposed of first, so a case may be set for trial several times before it is reached.