Defend a lawsuit or resolve a dispute FAQs
Depending on the situation you may want to seek legal counsel immediately. In some cases, if you do not respond properly and within a certain amount of time, you may automatically lose your case. It is often not in your best interest to represent yourself in court.
Before meeting with your lawyer, gather as much information as possible pertaining to the case. Bring the paperwork that was delivered to you, copies of any legal agreements pertaining to the case (lease agreements, sales receipts, divorce agreement), records of communications (phone calls, emails, texts or letters), and information about the party suing you. Do not talk to anyone but your lawyer about the case.
Mediation and arbitration are both alternatives to going to court (often called alternative dispute resolution or ADR). Sometimes a legal agreement requires that the parties arbitrate or mediate before or instead of going to court. This type of dispute resolution is often low-cost and often preferred to going to court.
Mediation is when two parties meet with a neutral third person who facilitates an agreeable solution to the problem. Mediators are usually trained in conflict resolution but have no authority to make a decision for the parties.
Unlike mediators, arbitrators have the authority to decide how the dispute will be resolved. The requirement to arbitrate is written into many types of contracts. While you have little control over the outcome, it often costs less than going to court.
Often non-criminal cases can be mediated. Mediation is also often used to solve disputes that do not involve breaking an actual law such as disputes between neighbors. Solving issues using mediation is low-priced, confidential and faster than court. In addition, unlike arbitration or court, you can have control over the final agreement.
Small claims court is where claims with a low monetary value are filed. All states vary; however, usually small claims court is for disputes worth less than $10,000. You do not need a lawyer to file a small claims case for you. Your local small court claims office will provide you with the forms required to submit. Like most disputes, the court will want to see that you have tried to solve the dispute in other ways before suing the courts to solve your dispute. A common use of small claims court is a landlord filing against a tenant for overdue rent.