If you've been served with a lawsuit, my first piece of advice is that you do not panic. A visit from a constable or a process server is almost always an unpleasant surprise, but there are some steps you need to take quickly to preserve your rights.
1. You Must Respond within 20 Days of Service
In Texas you have 20 days to file an Answer once you are served with a citation giving you notice of the lawsuit. You have this period of time to either file the answer on your own or consult with a local attorney to advise you on your defenses, potential counterclaims, and options under the circumstances. Do not ignore the citation. The warning is true. You have 20 days to respond, or the Plaintiff wins the lawsuit by default due to your failure to respond in a timely fashion. The worst thing you can do if you are served with a lawsuit is to do nothing or (more commonly), put the paperwork in a drawer and forget about it.
2. If You're Sued, You May Be Able to Fight Back
A lawsuit is a series of allegations against you, asking the Court to either award monetary damages to the Plaintiff against you or asking the Court to stop you from doing some action. The litigation process works both ways, though. You may have counterclaims that you can bring against the Plaintiff if you believe he has wronged you or violated your rights under a contract or other agreement. You may also have affirmative defenses that you would need to raise in writing with the Court. Your best bet is to talk to an experienced attorney in your area to figure out what your potential claims and defenses may be.
3. If You Receive a Notice of a Court Hearing, Don't Procrastinate.
Often defendants contact our firm the day before or a few days before an important hearing. This is a mistake. Attorneys need time to review the evidence and prepare before a hearing. A day or two is probably not going to be enough time for your new lawyer to figure out what's going on, much less competently present your case in Court. Waiting until the last minute to contact a lawyer is a mistake that disadvantages you and makes the attorney believe you do not respect the fact that we have other clients and many other matters in addition to taking on yours on a tight deadline. Be courteous and proactive. If you need a lawyer, start looking sooner rather than later. If you fall into this category, call our office at 713-574-8626 to schedule your initial consultation. We're ready and willing to help!