Legal Terminology

Serving a Summons and a Complaint in an Accident Case

If you are injured in an accident and you feel a particular person is responsible for causing the accident and your resultant injuries, then you can initiate a lawsuit to claim damages. In New York when you are initiating a lawsuit against somebody, your attorney will have to prepare certain documents called a summons and complaint. These are two separate documents that are served and delivered to the person or people whom you are suing. The procedure is termed as serving a summons.

What is a Summons and a Complaint?

A summons is a notice, which informs the person being sued that he has a certain time limit within which to respond to the accompanying complaint. The complaint on the other hand is a document that lists various allegations. However, these allegations are generalized and not specific. The complaints document will discuss points such as claims of negligence, claims medical malpractice, or claims of wrongful death. These allegations have to be worded in specific legal language. The document is meant for getting a response, to see, if the person whom you are suing is agreeing with the allegation or not.

Filing the Lawsuit and Securing the Index Number

The summons and complaint are important documents when you want to start a lawsuit against somebody. In New York, the only way to start a lawsuit is to take the summons and the complaint, go to the courthouse, and purchase what is called an index number. This index number is an identification number that is attached to your complaint. Once that document has been filed, and you have purchased the index number, you have officially started a lawsuit. The next step involves, delivering the documents to the people or person whom you are suing.

Who can Serve a Summons and a Complaint and How is it Done

The summons and the complaint can be served by anybody who is over 18 years old and is not a party to the action. The copy of the summons and complaint can be hand delivered to the party being sued, and the one who serves the documents should file an affidavit of doing this service in the court within 14 days. If the person being sued is not available at home or place of work, the summons and complaint document can be left with someone who is willing to accept it on the person’s behalf. However, a copy should also be mailed to the person being sued within 20 days of serving the substituted person. In certain instances, the person might be trying to avoid being served the summons, and if after at least three attempts the person is still not available, then summons and complaint can be served by what is called “Nail and mail”. In this type of delivery, the summons and complaint documents will be stuck to the door of the residence or place of work of the person being sued.