What is a “Summons” – Personal Injury Case – Q & A

A Summons, whether in a personal injury case, or any other type of civil case, is a legal document, usually a form document, the purpose of which is to notify the defendant that a civil action has been filed against the party and that the party must respond or risk default. The Summons normally contains the case caption, the name of the court, the names of the parties and a case docket number. The Summons usually accompanies the complaint upon service.

Failure to respond to a lawful and properly served Summons and complaint such as by either filing and serving a responsive pleading such as an answer or demurrer will allow the plaintiff to motion the court to have a default judgment entered against the defendant. However, before the court will enter the default, it will require the plaintiff to demonstrate that lawful service was made upon the defendant, whether by personal service, substituted service and/or by publication.

The plaintiff will then motion the court requesting that a prove-up hearing be set in which the plaintiff will submit unchallenged evidence substantiating liability and damages. Once a default judgment has been entered, the plaintiff will normally proceed with attempting to execute upon the judgment.

The defendant still has the legal right to motion the court to set aside the judgment upon a satisfactory showing that the defendant did not respond to the Summons because of defective service, or some other justifiable reason such as excusable neglect or mistake.


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