Filing a civil complaint in Pennsylvania signifies the beginning of a lawsuit. A plaintiff files a complaint and the defendant must respond to the complaint by filing a responsive complaint, typically an answer, within the time defined by state law. If the defendant does not respond to a civil complaint, the court will enter a default judgment against the defendant. A default judgment is a verdict in the plaintiff's favor. Therefore, responding to a civil complaint is essential to defending a lawsuit.
Discuss the civil complaint with an attorney. If you can afford to hire an attorney, he will assist you in responding to the civil complaint. Hiring an attorney can be expensive; however, many offer a free consultation and will help you find resources to respond to a civil complaint on your own.
Draft the answer. The answer must contain the name of the case and the defendant's position on each allegation included in the complaint. In the answer, the defendant must either admit or deny the plaintiff's version of events as included in the plaintiff's complaint.
Respond to the civil complaint within the requisite time. In Pennsylvania, the defendant must file an answer with the court hearing the case within 20 days of receiving a copy of the complaint.
Serve the plaintiff with a copy of the filed answer. The defendant must provide this copy. In addition, after the defendant serves the plaintiff with a copy of the answer, the defendant must file a proof of service with the court.