You’ve Just Been Served with a Lawsuit: What to do Next
If you’re reading this, hopefully you have not yet been served with a lawsuit. Odds are at some point, you will. In New Jersey, there are tens of thousands of civil lawsuits are filed every year. Many of the lawsuits filed each year involve a contract dispute or allege injury (tort) of some kind. Knowing what to do should you ever have a lawsuit filed against you will save you the stress and anxiety that comes with the territory.
When a lawsuit is filed against you, Courts require that you/your company be served with a copy of the lawsuit. Every State has different rules on whom can be served. Generally, for a lawsuit against you personally, the papers must be served against you personally or with someone over the age of 18 whom you reside (spouse, parent, of-age child). For a lawsuit against your company, the person listed on your business registration filed with the Secretary of State can be served, or a “senior officer” in the company can be served (think CEO, CFO, COO, General Counsel). Again, while each State is different, the purpose is to ensure the person served actually knows what to do with the documents once they receive them.
After the lawsuit gets into the hands of the right person, the first person to contact is your attorney. Our recommendation is that even if the lawsuit involves something you never use your attorney for, it is still important for your attorney to be aware of what is happening. For example, if your attorney helps your company out with everything but liability lawsuits, that attorney should still know about the lawsuit in case it comes up in contract or M&A negotiations. After speaking with your attorney, Borden Perlman, as your insurance broker, should be your next call. Our in-house claims team will assist you in making sure the lawsuit gets into the hands of the right insurance carrier and a claim is properly opened.
Opening a Claim
While you might have been anticipating the lawsuit and have a claim open for it already, should a claim not already be opened, it is important that a claim be opened as soon as possible. The timing of the claim with some insurance policies is critical and to ensure coverage is available, the claim needs to be opened as soon as possible.
Assigning an Attorney
Depending on the type of lawsuit and the wording of your policy, after the insurance carrier confirms coverage, they will either assign an attorney for you or allow you to pick an attorney of your own choosing. Many insurance carriers will assign an attorney to your specific case that they have a pre-existing relationship with. Get to know your attorney and ask to speak with them briefly about the case.
By this point, your attorney will be your primary point of contact and should be handling the lawsuit for you. Attorneys are required to keep you up-to-date on the status of your case so never feel like you are bothering them by asking for an update. Additionally, the other parties will be prohibited from contacting about the lawsuit you once you have an attorney, so refer and communications or attempted communications to your attorney.