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

Thursday, August 25, 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.

A summons, when used in civil cases, notifies the defendant of the upcoming civil proceedings. The document informs the sued party that they have so many days to respond to the complaint and 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.

How a Legal Summons is Served

You can provide notice of service in one of four primary ways:

1. Give the Summons and Complaint to a Sheriff

You can give the documents to the sheriff where the defendant lives. If you mail the paperwork, include a self-addressed stamped envelope. You’re charged a fee for this service.

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

You can also file a Motion of Appointment of Process Server with the court and ask that a licensed detective or process server serve the documents. The court needs to approve this service.

Whoever 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.

3. Send the Summons via Certified Mail

You may also send a summons through certified mail. In this case, 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, return receipt requested. You cannot mail the documents yourself. The clerk must handle and mail the paperwork.

4. Publish the Notice in the Local Newspaper

To publish the notice or summons in a local publication in Illinois, you’ll need to file two forms of paperwork first – an Affidavit for Service by Publication as well as a Motion for Leave to Serve by Publication.

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.

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