What Can You Do if a Defendant Does Not Respond to a Legal Complaint or Summons?

May 25, 2018

In Pennsylvania, if you’ve suffered injuries in an accident that was caused due to another person’s fault, you may be entitled to damages.  In some cases, however, the potentially liable defendant may attempt to avoid civil liability by remaining unresponsive to your legal complaint against them, or by failing to appear for a court hearing.

For example, you might file a legitimate lawsuit against the defendant for injuries suffered in a car accident, and serve proper notice upon them (in accordance with Pennsylvania law), but the defendant does not respond to your complaint within the applicable deadline period.

Fortunately, plaintiffs have the right to obtain a default judgment in circumstances where the defendant is unavailable or is otherwise attempting to avoid the dispute altogether.  Assuming that service was properly made, you may request that the court enter a default judgment in your favor.

Default judgments are actually quite beneficial for injured plaintiffs.  In fact, default judgments are “automatic wins,” so to speak.  As the defendant has not responded to the complaint or summons, they cannot dispute your arguments.

Requesting Entry of Default

In Pennsylvania, if you have effected proper service of a complaint or summons upon the defendant at-issue, and the defendant fails to answer within the applicable deadline, then you may request an entry of default.  Pennsylvania courts will not grant you an award of damages without proof, however.  You will have to present evidence that supports your claim for damages, and the evidence must be sufficiently specific and certain such that the court can properly calculate the damages.

Default Judgments May Be Vacated

It’s worth noting that — generally speaking — courts are not overly fond of the default judgment option.  It is, after all, desirable for each party involved in the case (plaintiff and defendant) to have their day in court.

As such, even if default judgment has been granted in your favor, there is a risk that the defendant will obtain relief from the default judgment and have it vacated.  In order to do so, however, the defendant will have to show that they had a reasonable excuse for failing to respond in a reasonable timeframe, and that their defense has at least some legal merit.

Speak With Our Experienced Bethlehem Personal Injury Lawyers for Further Guidance

If you’ve been seriously injured due to a defendant’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct, then Pennsylvania law may give you the right to recover damages as compensation for your various losses.  Unfortunately, some defendants may not be responsive to your legal complaint — whether out of a misguided belief that they will be able to avoid judgment by doing so, or simply out of laziness — and as such, you may have to request a default judgment against them.

Since 1985, the team of experienced Bethlehem personal injury lawyers here at Drake Hileman & Davis, PC have advocated tirelessly on behalf on injured plaintiffs throughout the state of Pennsylvania, helping them secure damages in a range of disputes — including those that involve absentee or otherwise unresponsive defendants.  We are well-equipped to successfully obtain a default judgment where appropriate.

Call (888) 777-7098 or submit an online claim form today to schedule a free consultation with one of the experienced attorneys here at Drake Hileman & Davis, PC.  We look forward to providing assistance with your claims.