How do I know if a summons is legal or a scam?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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How do I know if a summons is legal or a scam?

I’m trying to find out what options there are. A person brought a summons but didn’t give it to the right person; they just left it and it wasn’t in an envelope. This summons was dropped of by a lady in a car and she didn’t appear to be a court officer. What should I do?

Asked on July 12, 2016 under Accident Law, Illinois


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The summons and complaint (lawsuit) are not in an envelope.  The person who dropped it off may have been a process server.  If the person for whom it was intended was not home at that address and another member of the household accepted the document, that is valid service.  Then, the process server does a substituted service by mailing another copy of the summons and complaint to the defendant.
The summons will state the amount of time you have to file an answer to the complaint.  If the answer is not filed by the deadline with the court and a copy served by mail on opposing counsel or opposing party without an attorney, a default judgment will be entered against you.  A default judgment means you have lost unless you are successful in filing a motion to set aside the default.
If you had insurance, just give the summons and complaint to your auto insurance carrier, and the company will handle the matter for you by providing you with an attorney at no cost to you.
You can give the court clerk the case number and ask to see the file to determine whether or not a lawsuit was filed and the status of the case.  The file cannot be removed from the court, but the court clerk can photocopy the file for you.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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