What Should I Do If I Get Sued?

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Being served with a lawsuit is stressful, whether it’s against you personally or your business. After being served, there are serious deadlines you do not want to miss to protect all your legal rights.

The Summons and Complaint

A summons and complaint are two documents that start a lawsuit. When a summons and complaint are given to an individual in-person that is called being “served” with a lawsuit. The summons outlines what is happening and what you need to do. The complaint outlines the claims against you.

If you are served with a summons and complaint you must take immediate action to respond to the complaint’s claims or risk default judgment being entered against you. Ignoring a summons and complaint is not the answer. Default judgment can lead to your wages being garnished, bank accounts attacked, or your property being taken.

How long do I have to respond to a complaint?

After being served a lawsuit, you must respond with an “answer.” You’ll want to contact an attorney as soon as possible so they can assist you in drafting an answer. In Wisconsin, the number of days you have to answer the complaint depends on the type of claims brought. Typically, you have either 45 days or 20 days to answer.

45 days applies when:

  • A defendant in the action is an insurance company.
  • Any claim involves tort.

20 days applies for:

  • All other claims.

What should I do in addition to answering the complaint?

Collect and organize all important documents related to the claims! For example, if the lawsuit relates to a construction project gather documents such as:

  • All contracts
  • All change orders
  • List of subcontractors
  • Insurance policy/policies
  • Relevant photos
  • Timeline of events

Having this information ready before you call an attorney is very helpful. If you aren’t able to gather this information before calling, make sure to provide it before meeting in person with an attorney. That way the attorney can review the details to better understand what’s going on and have questions ready to ask. This saves everyone involved both time and money.

How long will this all take?

Lawsuits generally take at least 18 months. After a defendant provides an answer to the summons and complaint, the plaintiff has 20 or 45 days to respond to any counterclaims brought in the answer.

Then the court will calendar a scheduling conference about 30 days later. Generally, courts schedule trial about 12-18 months after the scheduling conference, which allows for about 8-12 months of discovery.


Being served with a summons and complaint can be nerve racking. There are important deadlines to be aware of and doing nothing is not the answer. Murdock Law routinely assists contractors, call us at 844-744-7529 if you have been served with a lawsuit and need help with what to do next.

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