Skipping a court date, especially your first date for appearing on the case, can put your whole case at risk. You take the chance that you will have a default judgment entered against you, which means you’ve lost your case before you’ve even gotten started.

In one case, a defendant learned this the hard way. He was served with a summons in the lawsuit, which gave him a date to appear in court. Before the court date, he and the plaintiff’s lawyers spoke to try to work out a settlement for the matter. Once they reach a settlement, the plaintiff’s lawyers told the defendant that he did not need to go to court on his court date.

briefcaseRelying on their advice, he didn’t show up for his court date, and a judgment of default was entered against him for failing to appear in court. It may have seemed reasonable at the time, that since there was a settlement the lawsuit was over and he didn’t have to go to court. But relying on someone else’s lawyer, especially about something as significant as missing a court date, is not a good idea.

If you are given a date to appear in court, you should always be there, regardless of how meaningless you may think the time will be. Depending on what the court date is for, the judge can take some action against you in the case if you do not show up to represent your interests.

In the case of this defendant’s default judgment, he can go to court and try to have it reversed. He will need to act quickly and file a motion within 30 days of the default. It’s pretty likely the motion will be successful in re-opening the lawsuit. But why take the chance to have to fix something that doesn’t need to be broken in the first place.

Rely on your own best judgment, and not the other side’s lawyers. They may be perfectly good and honest, but they are not representing your interests. Even if you think you have a settlement and the case will be over, remember—it’s not over until it’s over. Just because someone says it is, until the court dismisses the case, you still need to follow the procedure.