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Why You Need to File an Answer to a Complaint: Civil Issues

Courthouse in the snowAt Lebovitz Law, we have personally worked with clients who have suffered the consequences of not filing answers and facing default judgments as a result. Even if you cannot afford a lawyer yet, it’s vital to file an answer or notice of intention to defend when you receive a complaint related to civil issues.

Why Should You Respond to a Civil Issue Complaint?

Whenever someone has filed a case against you, you become the defendant and the person filing the suit is the plaintiff. If you plan on fighting the case in court, you need to notify the court of your intention in writing. The right response will depend on the court in which the case was filed.

The Right Response

In the state of Maryland, if the case was filed in District Court, you must file a notice of intention to defend. This should include a defense with merit. Saying that you can’t afford to pay the cost of a debt is not a defense with merit, but explaining that the plaintiff is misrepresenting the amount of debt could have merit. You could also just state that you do not owe the amount as alleged by Plaintiff. In Circuit Court, you can respond by filing an answer or, in some cases, a preliminary motion.

Your response needs to be filed within the time limit established by the court. If you choose not to respond, the court will likely assume you do not want to respond to the case. When this occurs, the court can enter a default judgment against you. This will grant the plaintiff either a portion or all of what they asked the court to grant them. In short, you might automatically lose the case and owe money without ever getting to enter a courtroom.

What Is a Default Judgment?

A default judgment is when a court order grants one side an award (typically money) against the opponent because the defendant has not responded correctly or told the court that they would like to fight the case. These judgments can be entered after an order of default. Depending on the case, the court might hold a hearing to determine exactly how much the judgment should be.

In District Court, if a plaintiff gives the court an affidavit detailing how much is requested and the defendant doesn’t file a notice of intention to defend, the hearing might be skipped entirely. In those cases, judges will enter a default judgment or affidavit judgment instead of a default order.

How Can You Respond to an Order of Default?

It is most important that you respond quickly and correctly. If you receive an Order of Default and want to fight the case, you must file a “Motion to Vacate an Order of Default” and explain to the court why you want to fight the case and why you neglected to file a response previously, in addition to the basis for your defense.

Your Civil Issues Law Specialist is Lebovitz Law

If you received a complaint or Order of Default, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. To learn more about how we can assist you, please contact us today.

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