How To Respond To A Lawsuit In Texas
In this article, we will go over the basics of how to file a response to a civil lawsuit in Texas civil courts without an attorney.
Whether you are being sued by an unscrupulous debt collector, or a business associate has alleged a breach of contract claim, sometimes we are forced to get involved in the civil court system and respond to a lawsuit, regardless of whether or not we can afford it. In these situations, having a competent attorney by your side is always a good idea. But what happens when you can't afford to spend $10,000-$20,000 on an attorney?
With access to free legal services being woefully inadequate, many people have no choice but to represent themselves in civil court. Fortunately, this is not nearly as difficult as you may think. Once you understand the basic process and learn a few legal terms, you will see that the legal system is primarily based on simple common sense.
If you do decide to respond to your lawsuit, we highly recommend you purchase our Texas Civil Lawsuit Guide, which includes more detailed instructions, form templates, and samples. It will allow you to file a professional response on par with anything drafted by an attorney.
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1. Being Served with a Petition and Citation
A civil 'Petition' is the initiating document that lays out a plaintiff's claims (known as a 'Complaint' in most states). It informs the defendant and the court how the plaintiff has been wronged by the defendant and how the plaintiff should be compensated. When a lawsuit has been filed against you, you will be formally served with a copy of the Petition as well as a 'civil 'Citation' (known as a 'Summons' in most states), which makes you legally obligated to respond to the allegations in the Petition.
Some examples of common lawsuits in Texas are:
- Breach of Contract
- Unpaid Wages
- Wrongful Termination
- Race/Sex Discrimination
- Disability Discrimination
- Defamation (slander/libel)
If you have been served with a petition and citation in Texas, you will need to file a response (known as an 'Answer') in the same court where the petition was filed.
2. Filing an Answer to the Petition and Citation
Once served, you will need to file an answer within the time indicated in the citation (usually around 30 days). IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU DO NOT IGNORE THE CITATION! If you do, a default judgment will likely be entered against you and you will be forced to pay the plaintiff all of the damages they alleged in their petition, regardless of whether or not they are accurate. In your answer, you will either admit or deny the specific allegations made against you in the petition. You should also lay out any valid affirmative defenses and counterclaims you may have against the plaintiff.
3. Engaging in the Discovery Process
Once your answer has been filed, both sides will engage in ’Discovery’, where they are required to disclose information to each other. Some initial disclosures are required in Texas, but these are usually supplemented by each party sending the other a 'Request for Production of Documents’ wherein they ask for specific documents that are relevant to the case. Our Texas Lawsuit Answer Package contains forms, samples, and instructions on how to send and respond to requests for production. Discovery often includes depositions of witnesses as well.
4. Presenting your Evidence in Court
After discovery is complete, a hearing or trial will be set and both sides will present their case to a judge, jury, or private arbitrator. This includes submitting exhibits and interviewing witnesses.
Once both sides are finished presenting their claims and defenses, the judge or jury will find in favor of one party or the other.
This is a general overview of how to file a response to a lawsuit in Texas. Of course, the specifics of any case can be a bit more complex, but if you understand these basic concepts, you will be able to represent yourself competently in most civil lawsuits.
The Texas Lawsuit Answer Form package will show you how to file an answer to a summons and complaint, send and respond to requests for production, introduce exhibits, offer objections, and interview witnesses at a hearing or trial. All without an attorney. Start your lawsuit answer today!