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If someone threatens you with a lawsuit, don't pack up and skip town without reading these tips first.

1. To save time and money, always try to reach an agreement before a lawsuit is filed. You may want to consult a lawyer if you feel the threat is imminent.

2. Generally, unless otherwise provided for by contract, a party can only sue you in a court located in the county of your residence, or, if the dispute is over land, then in the county where the property is located. If you are a business, the suit can be brought wherever the business is incorporated, where the principal office is located, or any other place in which you conduct your business.

3. You cannot be sued unless you are served with process. What this means is that someone authorized to serve you (usually a police officer) will knock on your door and personally hand you a copy of the complaint and summons. Do not try to avoid this person. They will eventually get the papers to you - under some circumstances they can even serve you by a posting in the newspaper - and you may end up having to pay for the service attempts. Avoid the hide and seek games and just take the papers.

4. Once served, read over the complaint and immediately consult a lawyer. If you can't afford one, check into legal service programs offered by non-profit groups or at your local courthouse. Whatever you do - do not ignore the complaint. The law will allow you only a certain number of days in which to respond by filing an Answer with the court. (Usually 30 days) This is a document wherein you admit or deny each of the allegations contained in the complaint. If you do not respond within the time provided, you will be in default. What this means is you automatically lose. The party suing can ask the court for a default judgement and then proceed to collect whatever damages they seek from you.

5. Do not contact the lawyer for the other side without consulting your own attorney first. (Preferably, you will hire your attorney and he or she will contact the other side on your behalf.) They do not represent you and may not tell you what is in your best interest. Also, keep in mind that when both parties are represented by attorneys, your adversary's attorney must never contact you directly.

6. Once the complaint and answer are filed, depending on the court handling the lawsuit, both sides may be able to seek information and/or documents from you. Again, do not ignore these because the law will only allow you a limited amount of time to respond to these requests.

Hopefully, your case will work itself out before you are required to mediate or go to trial. If not, have faith that the system will work and the law will be followed.