If a collection company sues you because of an outstanding credit card debt, medical debt, or other debt, it is important not to panic. While you should take debt collection lawsuits seriously, the fact that you were sued does not mean that you are out of options. If you were served with notice of a lawsuit, learn more about how you should handle it.
Read The Complaint
When you are sued, you will receive both a summons and a complaint. These documents contain important information like the date and time of your court appearance, the amount of time you have to answer the complaint, the name of the company trying to collect the debt, and evidence proving that you owe the debt.
Read these documents carefully and keep track of deadlines. If you do not file an answer to the complaint, the creditor may win a default judgment, and you could owe the entire debt without ever being able to defend yourself.
Answer The Complaint
Most lawsuits give you, the defendant, about 20 days to file an answer. The best way to file an answer to a complaint is to hire an attorney who will prepare this document for you. However, if you are running out of time and have not yet retained an attorney, you still need to file something to keep from losing valuable rights.
Often, you can file a basic answer yourself. The answer is a legal response that either agrees or denies all of the allegations made in the complaint. There are many forms available online that will help you create an answer, or your local legal aid office may be able to help you fill out an answer and file it properly with the court.
Even if the information in your answer is not entirely correct, an attorney can correct it on your behalf. As long as you don’t miss the deadline and hire an attorney shortly afterward, your rights will be protected.
Alternatively, you can file a letter with the court asking for an extension of time to answer. The court will usually grant you an additional 30 days to retain an attorney, who will then answer the complaint on your behalf.
Hire An Attorney
While a debt collection lawsuit may seem straightforward, having an attorney on your side is immensely helpful. Attorneys who understand debt collection laws can file affirmative defenses on your behalf that may keep you from owning all or part of the debt. Additionally, debt collection lawyers can request documents from the creditor and examine them to ensure that the creditor has followed all the applicable laws. If the creditor missed a step, the case may be dismissed. Finally, an attorney may also be able to negotiate a settlement on your behalf, even after litigation has already begun.
If you have been sued by a debt collector or already have a judgment entered against you, you need the help of an experienced debtor rights attorney—like those at Fitzgerald Campbell—to review your case and discuss your options with you. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing clients in all types of debtor defense cases and we are here to help you!