What to do if You Get Sued
Hire a Lawyer
Answering a lawsuit is complex and the deadlines for answering are very short. Upon being served, a defendant has just 21 days to respond by either filing an answer or some other “responsive pleading.” With weekends, holidays, and the time it takes to find a decent attorney, this period can expire quickly. Because of this, anyone served with a lawsuit should, at the very least, consult with an attorney to review their options as quickly as possible. In many cases, an attorney can call the attorney who represents the person who sued you and get an extension of time so that you can review all your options or interview multiple attorneys.
For example, there are a number of strategies that can only be pursued at the very beginning of the case such as motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction or motions to change venue. These sorts of pleadings must be filed at the outset of the case but could be strategically beneficial. If you do not live in Colorado but are served with a lawsuit from a court here, you may be able to get the lawsuit moved to another jurisdiction or state. These sorts of motions need to be brought at the very beginning of the case and a lawyer can assist you in determining whether this is the right strategy for your case.
Your Primary Options
Answer the Lawsuit
An answer is fairly straightforward and provides individual responses for each allegation in the complaint. You typically have these three options: (1) Admit, (2) Deny, or (3) Admit/Deny in part. To avoid waiving any possible affirmative defenses, you should also include them in the answer.
Move to Dismiss
A motion to dismiss is a pleading that asks the court to dismiss all or part of the lawsuit. Although it depends on the facts of your case, it is fairly difficult to win such motions. Lawsuits that fail to allege proper claims or do not entitle someone to any legal relief will be dismissed. However, many lawsuits are just “good enough” to withstand a motion to dismiss and you should be prepared to answer the lawsuit.
Deadline to Answer (21 Days From Service)
Generally, you have 21 days (3 weeks) to act, starting from the date you were served. See C.R.C.P. 12. This is not a lot of time, so it’s best to move quickly. Answering the lawsuit gets the case started. After you answer, you will attend a case management conference and begin engaging in discovery and building a case to prove your defenses.
Deadline to Dismiss (21 Days From Service)
A motion to dismiss must be filed within the same amount of time as an answer. However, under certain circumstances, if a motion to dismiss is filed, the time to answer the lawsuit is extended until 14 days after the motion to dismiss is denied.