People who aren't regularly engaged in the legal system aren't familiar with the process. So, many times, we get called by someone who has been sued and doesn't know what to do.
So, what should you do if you receive a summons and complaint? First, READ IT!! The Summons tells you what you need to do and what deadlines you have.
Next, call your insurance agent or an attorney. As the old saying goes, "He who represents himself has a fool for a client." Under Alabama law, you are held to the same standards as a lawyer, so if you represent yourself, you better know the rules.
In Alabama, depending on where the lawsuit is pending, you typically have three deadlines to answer a case in a civil matter: 30 days in Circuit Court, 14 days in District Court, and 21 days in Federal Court. If an answer is not filed, the person suing can take a default judgment.
Now, in the car accident setting, you may be sued because your own insurance company wouldn't pay a fair amount to the injured person in the other car. Sometimes you can avoid this by putting pressure on your own insurance company to settle. If you are a good customer, they may listen.
Sometimes, your own insurance company puts you in this position. For example, we just filed suit against an individual for causing a wreck. I got a call from the insurance carrier's attorney telling me to re-file and try to serve the defendant/insured again because she didn't get it the first time. Why? The attorney can accept service for their REAL client, the insured person, NOT the insurance company. Instead, the insurance carrier and attorney are going to make me jump through unnecessary hoops and expense.
Bottom line, if you get sued, read what you receive, and call an attorney.