What is a Summons?

A summons in civil procedure is a document served on a person notifying them of legal action when they are to appear in superior court, and what they are responding to and with among other things.

It is from an issuing court and served on an opposing party via process server or certified mail with official notification procedures. Given the proper service of these legal papers, failure to respond can result in a default judgment so it is important to understand what a summons is. We will review that now.

what to do if you get a summons

A summons is a legal document used in many types of civil and criminal matters used to get jurisdiction over a matter.

What Exactly is a Civil Summons in a Court Case?

A summons in a court case is official notice that the plaintiff has filed an action and the defendant or other party is required to be somewhere or do something. It is served after the complaint is filed by the attorney.

Normally, defendants obtain information about the lawsuit, claim jurisdiction, parties, process requirements, when they must appear in court, and other relevant points at the same time. The plaintiff must follow strict rules according to the law to process notice in a legal way.

Otherwise, the defendant won’t have to respond to the plaintiff or come to court in certain cases depending upon the jurisdiction and lawsuit claim.

Notice, that a summons issued and notice generally is different than a complaint. A complaint is the basic premise of the case: facts; grounds for recovery; recovery requested; etc. It is normally written by an attorney. A summons merely puts a defendant or other person or party served on notice of the action itself.

What Should be included in the Summons according to State and Federal Rules?

Court precedent has set the law for what should be included in the service of a summons onto a defendant, person, or another party.

Failure to properly include these things in the party or person served can mean they won’t have to appear in court:

  • A subpoena.
  • A return date in court.
  • The relevant court order if any.
  • The person or defendant being served.
  • The jurisdiction.
  • A copy of the complaint.
  • When they should appear or respond to the court.
  • What legal documents or other documents the defendant, witness, or other person being sued should bring.
  • The penalty for non-compliance.

Service of the court summons upon your person or attorney in a civil or criminal matter is important. You must be sure to answer.

Otherwise, the judge can decide a judgment and issue a demand for action in most cases. Depending upon the jurisdiction and party sued, this can come from the court’s clerk and take the form of monetary damages, an injunction, or more.

Therefore, the defendant or other person or party served needs to carefully review the complaint, summons, and subpoena and consult an attorney if he or she has questions.

Who Gets Served a Summons and Subpoena?

Normally, the other people involved in the case get service of court summons, subpoena, complaint, and other documents. Obviously, that includes the defendant.

Under the law, that may also extend to a court witness or person related to the defendant. This is why you may have service of the summons and subpoena from the courts without involvement in the matter.

If you are not the defendant but still get served a court summons, then you should review the form carefully, especially the certain time or date to appear or respond. Otherwise, you might get into trouble with the court.

How Do You Send or Serve a Court Summons to a Defendant?

Your court will probably have strict rules on how you are to serve a court summons on the defendant person or company.

Most of the time, your court will probably allow an independent process server, your local sheriff, or even the certified mail. This will ensure it is properly served in the civil case or criminal case.

All civil actions require proper services of the summons and complaint upon the defendant. Improper service of the summons can lead the court to dismiss the case entirely. Ask your county if you need a note or example statement of summons so you can comply.

Other Rules for Service of Summons.

There is a myriad of other rules built into a summons: the date of service; the date of return; what must be included; etc. The most important thing that differs from state to state is the exact date. However, it is important to compare and contrast separate locales to see what you must do.

Also, if the target is a company, then jurisdictions may be unique in who you should serve and what you should give them. Understanding the local needs for service of not just the summons but other key documents will help you in your case.

Check with your filing clerk of the courts or judge to see what rules and form you should use for your summons and subpoena. Their site might have an example that could explain what they intended you to do in their courts for proper service of summons.

You can also call our offices or leave a note if you need us to explain this issue in more detail or provide you with an example. This should help you save time and money.

What if You Get Served in Superior Court or Another Court?

There are real-world implications to receiving a summons or subpoena. Failure to follow the instructions laid out in either document and both are documents of the court, can mean a fine or action taken against you.

If you are served a summons, remember that is an official notice of legal action and instructions on what you are to do. If you take no action after being served such a summons, then the court may make a default judgment against you or your entity. This means you can lose in court without being heard.

If you are served a subpoena, this is an official court mandate that you must supply certain information or show up somewhere in order to supply that same information.

If you don’t supply that information or show up to the court to supply it, the court can cite you with contempt. Contempt of court could require jail time, penalties, and fines depending upon the judge.

How an Attorney from an Experienced Law Firm Can Help You after Being Served.

If you served any of these documents- summons, subpoena, complaint, etc.-then there can be a lot of things running through your mind. You may begin to panic and think you are in trouble.

The good news is that you are not in trouble. The real trouble may come if you do not understand the documents or fail to reply to them at all. If that is the case, then trouble may beset you.

The good news is that our team can help you intake the documents, review them, and respond to them in a way that protects your legal interests. Talk to us when you get the summons so you can understand it completely and make a decision that protects you and your family.

Talk to Our Experienced Civil Litigation Lawyers

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers has worked with many personal injury accident victims. We have it our mission to ensure they understand the legal process, and what to do when they court documents like a summons.

Call us if you have any questions. Our offices are open 24/7. You get in touch us with by using the contact form or calling (888) 424-5757.

Our group of attorneys work on contingency, so we don’t charge anything if we don’t return a successful settlement or award to you. Find out what that might mean by talking to us today.

Further Resources and Reading