Skip to Content

The Collections Lawsuit: Understanding the First Step

woman using calculator

While you may be unsure as to how you fell so far into debt—and so fast—once you find yourself at the receiving end of a collection lawsuit, the process (while definitely unfortunate) becomes much clearer. It may also seem much more unpleasant, but the reality is that while some creditors and collections agencies will continue to write and call and threaten for years, others are quite expeditious about churning out the lawsuits.

Credit card debt has continued to rise to historical highs in recent years, topping out at a record level of $930 billion last year—with consumers showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. As delinquencies and consequent defaults increase, so do the number of collections lawsuits in the US, meaning that deputies and private process servers in every state have plenty of work to keep them busy in serving legal papers and filling out accompanying affidavits.

Being served with a summons and complaint is generally the first part of the collection lawsuit process. And while the process server may often have been portrayed as a sneaky type, hiding in the bushes, and just waiting to pop out at you upon your innocent arrival home, the truth is that process of service is meant to protect your rights within the legal system. You are being notified that legal action has been taken against you, and what you are expected to do.

The summons and complaint will outline the time period you have in which to respond (typically 20 to 30 days). Usually the process server will give you an extremely brief outline of what is happening and tell you how many days you may wait before answering. This is critical information, and also points toward the need to consult with a skilled collections lawsuit attorney from Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC as soon as possible. If you are not home but another resident answers the door, substitute service may be allowed, along with mailing of the documents. In that case, there is the possibility you may have longer to reply.

Once you have been served, the process server is responsible for filing an affidavit, or ‘proof of service,’ stating how you were served, on what date and at what time, and any other pertinent information. If service does not occur or there are details which render it ‘bad,’ the case could be dismissed. This is information your attorney will need to examine and delve further into if necessary.

Speak with an attorney from Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC as soon as possible to examine your options. Our attorneys have decades of experience in serving clients as they navigate through challenging financial situations, to include student loan issues, bankruptcy, and other debt management processes. We are here to help! Click here to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, call us at (844) 431-3851, or email us at

Share To: