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What to do when you receive a summons in South Africa?

Summons is the first legal document in the official court process in South Africa. The service of summons is usually preceded by a letter of demand from an attorney.

 Summons contain-

The summons contains all the details of the parties, the court at which the matter has been referred, the claim against the defendant, and a summary of the case.

 How to defend yourself once you receive a summons in South Africa?

The South African court rules provide ten business days from the day of Service of  Summons to notify the plaintiff of their attorney that you need to defend yourself.

Summons contain

The person at this stage can contact an attorney to seek legal help and advice regarding the claim against you. A plea must be drafted, and the court rules are particular regarding what should be contained. So it is always advisable to talk to a professional attorney about the way forward after receiving a summons in South Africa.

One should never ignore the summons received, as doing so means that the plaintiff can obtain the judgment against you by default without any intervention.

Things to be done first when you receive the service of summons

1.  Check the document is a summons and not any other legal document.

2. Take note of the date which is served. Also, make a note of whom it was served and the court name.

3.  Confirm the description of the defendant defines you accurately.

4. If you are not accurately described in the summons, if your address is incorrect, or if they were not correctly served, you can refuse to accept it.

5. You must inform the sheriff that the defendant described in the service of summons is not you or the address is not yours.

6.  If the sheriff insists on leaving a copy, immediately contact the professional indemnity provider.


What is the next step? 


1.     Stay calm: There is a process to be followed by the plaintiff's attorney, and a period is granted for the defendant to respond. Take time, read through the document, and contact a trustworthy attorney.


2.    Process: The summons is served on you by the sheriff, placed in your post box, or secured in a gate. Only in certain circumstances will the summons be served personally; do not focus on that. Focus on addressing the matter with the attorney and make arrangements or defend the case. You have ten days from the summons service date at your address. The period of ten days starts from the following day's service of the summons document.


3.   Pay the account: If you owe money, contact a debt collecting attorney's office to make the arrangements to pay instead of focussing on things like it was not served correctly.


4.     Settlement letter: Once you have settled your account, request a paid-up letter. This is to ensure that you have in writing confirmation that no further steps will be proceeded with in the matter.

 Wrap up

 Receiving summons can be stressful and cause anxiety, but a good attorney in South Africa will help you proceed hassle-free.


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