What can I do if I’m being sued for more than I made in the last 2 years?

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What can I do if I’m being sued for more than I made in the last 2 years?

My dog had gotten out and bit a woman, now I got served paperwork and they are asking for $15.000 plus costs. I made less than $7,000 this year in total. The paperwork states the plaintiff believes I own my home. I do not own I rent. The car I drive is not even mine. What can happen here? Do I need to get a lawyer? I cannot afford one. Would it be better to show up without a lawyer?

Asked on February 15, 2017 under Personal Injury, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If you can afford it, it's always better to have an attorney, and investing in an attorney can save you money down the road by getting you a better outcome. If you simply cannot afford an attorney, you are allowed to represent yourself "pro se". If you do, make sure to file an "answer" to the complaint within the time frame and to make any/all court dates--otherwise you will lose by default (basically forfeiting). To bear in mind:
1) She can't simply ask for and get any amount she feels like; she is only entitled to the monetary costs or losses she can prove (like out of pocket medical expenses; lost wages from missing work); and also for long lasting (typically months or more) disability, disfigurement, or serious life impairment, some amount for "pain and suffering."
2) If you lose in court and are ordered to pay more than you can possibly afford, filing bankruptcy may be an option; bankruptcy works on debts from court judgments like this.


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