What is a Summons and How Is It Used in a Court Case?

Monday, December 19, 2022

What is a Summons and How Is It Used in a Court Case?

A court summons is part of the legal process – a document that allows lawyers to proceed with a lawsuit. Some people get a summons confused with a subpoena. However, these documents are not the same thing.

A summons represents an official notice of a lawsuit, such as a case for personal injury. The document is given to the defendant or the person who is sued. This allows the defendant to respond to the notice so they can fight the charges. When you work with a personal injury attorney, you’ll learn more about the steps involved in issuing a summons and filing a legal complaint.

This notice is part of the service process. Without this step, the judge cannot hear your case, so this part of the process puts everything in motion. The service of the process includes delivering a complaint or petition and summons to the defendant. The complaint tells the defendant why they’re being sued while the summons notifies them about the specifics of the case and when they’re scheduled to appear in court.

When you file the complaint or petition, you’ll fill out the summons and make at least two copies – submitting the paperwork to the circuit clerk. The clerk stamps the summons and copies and returns them to you.

The Legal Summons Service Process

When you file a complaint or petition that brings legal claims against a defendant, a summons will be served to provide details about the case. These details often include the time and location that the defendant must appear.

To start the summons process, you will fill out the summons and make at least two copies – submitting the paperwork to the circuit clerk. The clerk stamps the summons and copies and returns them to you.

When the legal summons has been created and is ready to be delivered, you can provide notice of service in one of four primary ways:

Give the Summons and Complaint to a Sheriff

The first and often most common way to serve a summons is to employ the local sheriff to deliver the document to the party you are suing. If you decide to use this option, you can give the documents to the sheriff where the defendant lives. These documents can be hand delivered or sent through the postal service. If you mail the paperwork, it is important to include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Typically, you will be charged a fee for this service.

File a Motion of Appointment and Have a Detective for Process Server Deliver the Summons

Another way that you can file a Motion of Appointment of Process Server is with the court and then request that a licensed detective or process server serve the documents. If you decide to go this route, the court will need to approve this service.

Once the court approves this service, the next step is to fill out the proper paperwork. The representative who hand-delivers the summons must also complete a sworn statement on the back part of the document. They’ll either mail it to you or give it to the circuit court clerk. Completing the sworn statement is confirmation that the defendant received the legal claim.

Send the Summons via Certified Mail

A third way to send a summons is through certified mail. If you want to go with this option, the complaint must be a small claims court filing. Illinois residents can take this step by asking the local circuit clerk to send the complaint and summons certified. Remember to request a return receipt in order to confirm that the mail has been delivered correctly. It is important to note that you cannot mail the documents yourself. In order for the summons to be delivered correctly, the clerk must handle and mail the paperwork.

Publish the Notice in the Local Newspaper

Although many people may not realize that this is an option, one other method that you may use is to publish the notice in a local newspaper. There are a few more steps required if you want to publish the notice or summons in a local publication in Illinois. You will be required to file two forms of paperwork first before publishing in the newspaper. These two forms of paperwork include an Affidavit for Service by Publication as well as a Motion for Leave to Serve by Publication.

Summons vs. Subpoenas: When a Subpoena is Used

By contrast, a subpoena is used when you ask a person to appear in court or at a deposition. You may also use the legal form when you’re asking for evidence. This court order is served on the person.

If a witness does not testify willingly, you can subpoena them to appear in court. You can also use a subpoena during discovery. Discovery, which happens before a trial, allows both parties to gather evidence and information so they can prepare their individual cases.

A subpoena is required if you want the other party to take part in a deposition and answer questions. You can also obtain evidence from individuals or companies who are not parties in a lawsuit.

How to Deal with An Unwilling Witness

Witnesses are often an important part of any case that goes to court, especially if there is a jury involved. Gathering witnesses and evidence is not always straightforward, though. There will be times when a witness does not voluntarily agree to testify when called to court. In these situations, if a witness does not agree to testify willingly, you can subpoena them to appear in court.

You can also use a subpoena during discovery. During the discovery process, which happens before a trial, both parties have time to gather evidence and information so they can prepare their individual cases.

A subpoena is required if you want the other party to take part in a deposition and answer questions. You can also obtain evidence from individuals or companies who are not parties in a lawsuit. If a person ignores the subpoena, there are consequences, typically a monetary fine. In rare cases, ignoring a subpoena may even result in prison time, although this is uncommon and unlikely.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney for Further Details

Learn more about filing a personal injury claim today from Malman Law. If you believe you’ve been harmed because of another person’s negligence, you need to discuss your case with a qualified personal injury attorney. Don’t delay the process, as you only have two years from the date you’re injured or from the date you discover your injury. Contact us today.

What’s your case worth? Submit for a free case review

Related Blog Posts

view all news