June 11, 2019
If you have been served with a lawsuit in Florida you generally have 20 days to file some type of response. (See Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.140) This may include filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit (usually on technical grounds), a motion to change venue (location of the suit) or simply an Answer (which is the formal name for your reply to the allegations against you). If you fail to respond within this window you may find yourself on the wrong end of a default action and that is definitely something to avoid.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see regularly is people putting off dealing with the issue because it is unpleasant to think about. In other words, it is very easy to pretend the problem doesn't exist and hope that it goes away. However, in Florida, the problem only gets worse if you fail to respond to a lawsuit and undoing the damage is not always possible.
Another common pitfall is failing to realize that calling a good litigation attorney is just the first step. In my office, it is rare for a client to be able to get an appointment with me on the same day (or even the same week) that they call and I would venture a guess that the same is true in most experienced civil trial firms. This means that 'on-time is late' because hiring an attorney the day before the Answer is due deprives your counsel of the ability to properly respond to the allegations. The best practice is to build in some 'lead-time' so that your lawyer can gather the necessary facts to form a viable defense strategy.
There are a lot of tools that a good civil trial lawyer can use to fight back against a lawsuit but if a client comes to me late in the game, many of those valuable tools stripped away. Hence, the best approach is hit the problem hard and early. There is nothing that will make the pain of learning that you've been sued go away completely. However, many of my clients report feeling immensely better after having retained me than before when they first came in and it makes sense for them to feel this way. After all, hiring a professional to do a job right is about the best thing anyone can do in a tough situation.