If you are served with a lawsuit, and, then you or your attorney fail to respond then the other side is likely to take a default against you. Once a default is entered a party is unable to make any kind of appearance to contest a case on the merits. Thus, it is critically important to never let a default get taken against you.
If, for some reason, a default is entered against you, there is a motion that can sometimes set aside the default. Specifically, Motions to set aside a judgement in California are brought under California code of Civil Procedure 473. 473 provides that a default may (not shall) be set aside if you can demonstrate that the default was taken because of: mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.
Really what these boil down to is a legitimate reason why an answer was not filed: your lawyer was hit by a train and was in the hospital. The copy of the lawsuit that was served was illegible, so, you could not actually tell where you had to file your response. Generally, “I forgot” is not a valid excuse.
Needless to say it is far, far, better to have to avoid trying to fill one of these kinds of requirements, than to have to spend the time money, and extra effort to file such a motion. Thus, the bottom line is that when you receive notice form a lawsuit. Reach out to an attorney immediately. Ask that attorney when you need to respond by, mark this date on your own calendar, and make sure a response is filed by the appropriate day.
The San Francisco based bay area attorneys of Jones & Devoy provide experienced attorneys who can help make sure that you avoid pitfalls before they happen, or, if such a disaster has already occurred, they will provide practical advice on how to approach the problem.