CanI respond to an out-of-statesummons by letter?

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CanI respond to an out-of-statesummons by letter?

Or will the case automatically go to the plaintiff if I do not show up? By way of background, the plaintiff was ticketed for turning left onto oncoming traffic. Hit my car so hard that it flipped twice. My car was totaled. Now she is suing me in small claims court for $3700 for damage to her car. I live in AZ, the accident occurred in I. She did not have insurance, but told the police that she did. My insurance paid for the loss of my car but none of the expenses which occurred as a result of the accident (items lost in the wreck and cost of rental car). I felt the poor woman had no money so did not pursue those costs from her. My insurance company is trying to collect.

Asked on August 8, 2011 Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A summons is actual legal process--you can't just respond to it by a letter. At a minimum, you *must*  come to court on the day indicated--if you don't, you will lose by default regardless of the facts. In other courts (not small claims), you would have to file an actual "answer" with the court, where you can set out defenses, and serve it on the plaintiff (person suing); you'd also have the chance to try to knock the complaint and case against you out with a motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment; however, typically you don't have those options in small claims court, and your only choice is to either show up and contest the matter or accept the default judgment against you.

If you have liability insurance, you should refer this matter to your insurer, which has an obligation to defend you (even in small claims court); otherwise, with $3,700 at stake, you wish to consider hiring your own attorney. Good luck.


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