If you are being sued by a debt collector, it is important to take the lawsuit seriously and respond in a timely manner. Failure to respond to a lawsuit can result in a default judgment being entered against you. That means the debt collector would be able to obtain a court order garnishing your wages or seizing your bank account.
Here are some steps you can take to defend yourself in a debt collection lawsuit:
- Determine your options: Your best option is probably filing an Answer to the Complaint. Some cases it is far better to file a Motion to Dismiss instead. Some cases can also be resolved by negotiating a settlement with the creditor. In others, filing bankruptcy might be the best solution.
- Respond to the lawsuit: If you have been served with a lawsuit, you should respond to it within the time frame specified in the summons. Read the summons and complaint carefully to understand the nature of the lawsuit and the relief being sought by the creditor and don’t miss the deadline for responding to the lawsuit.
- Gather evidence: If you believe that the debt is not valid or that you do not owe the amount being claimed, you should gather any evidence that supports your position. This could include documents such as credit card statements, receipts, or contracts. Also, get sworn statements from witnesses and make sure they are willing to testify in court if needed.
- Send discovery: Asking the other side for their evidence is a critical part of defending yourself. Be sure to request the contract, collection letters, statements, receipts, and anything else the collector intends to use to prove its case.
- Consider hiring an attorney: Depending on the complexity of the case and your financial situation, you should consider hiring an attorney to defend you against the lawsuit. An attorney can provide legal advice and representation in court. Do not delay this step until the court has ruled against you. Waiting too long to engage an attorney can result in irreversible rulings and consequences.
- Attend court hearings: If the case goes to court, it is important to attend all scheduled court hearings. If you fail to appear in court, a default judgment may be entered against you.
What about counterclaims for collection abuses
Debt collectors are subject to certain laws, such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which regulate their behavior. If a debt collector has violated the FDCPA or any other laws, you may have grounds to defend yourself and potentially even counter-sue the collector. NEVER do this alone however. If there are debt collection abuses or harassment you will have no problem hiring an attorney to help you and any good collection litigation attorney will handle your case on a contingency basis.
What are some affirmative defenses you can assert to defend yourself
There are many others but here are some brief examples of affirmative defenses that you may be able to assert in a debt collection lawsuit:
- Statute of limitations: If the time limit for the creditor to file a lawsuit has passed, you can assert the defense of the statute of limitations. The time limit, or statute of limitations, varies by state and type of debt.
- Payment: If you have already paid the debt, you can present evidence of the payment to defend yourself against the lawsuit.
- Lack of standing: If the creditor does not have the legal right to bring the lawsuit, you can assert the defense of lack of standing. This could be the case if the creditor does not have the proper documentation or ownership of the debt.
- Discharge in bankruptcy: If you have received a discharge of the debt in bankruptcy, you can assert this as a defense.
- Fraud or misrepresentation: If the creditor made false or misleading statements in order to collect the debt, you can assert the defense of fraud or misrepresentation.
- Lack of jurisdiction: If the court does not have the legal authority to hear the case, you can assert the defense of lack of jurisdiction.
It is important to note that these are just a few examples of affirmative defenses, and the defenses available to you will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. It is always a good idea to speak with an attorney if you are being sued for a debt and are considering raising an affirmative defense.
What happens if you default a debt collection lawsuit
If you do not defend yourself against a debt collection lawsuit, the creditor or debt collector may be able to obtain a default judgment against you. A default judgment is a court order requiring you to pay the debt. The creditor can then use various methods to collect the debt, such as garnishing your wages or bank accounts, attaching a lien to your property, or seizing your assets.
It is important to take a debt collection lawsuit seriously and respond in a timely manner. If you have been served with a lawsuit, you should consult with an attorney or take other appropriate steps to defend yourself. If you do not respond to the lawsuit or appear in court, the creditor may be able to obtain a default judgment without you even being aware of it. This can have serious consequences and can damage your credit score.
One important step you can take is to get acquainted with the court’s online filing system MyCase. Follow that link to sign up and use the system.
Can I really represent myself in a debt collection case
Maybe, but you should not represent yourself in most cases. Representing yourself in court can be time-consuming and requires a significant amount of knowledge and preparation. You will be expected to follow the same rules and procedures as an attorney and to present your case in a manner that is clear and persuasive. If you are not familiar with the legal process or are unsure how to proceed, it can be difficult to effectively advocate for yourself in court.
Additionally, if you represent yourself in a debt collection case and the creditor obtains a judgment against you, you may have limited options for appealing the decision. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the case, it may be more difficult for you to seek relief without the assistance of an attorney.
It is also important to be aware that representing yourself in a legal matter can be complex and can carry risks. If you are considering representing yourself in a debt collection case, you must be familiar with the legal process and the laws that apply to your case.
If you are considering representing yourself in a debt collection case, it is a good idea to carefully weigh the pros and cons and to consider seeking legal advice as early in the case as possible before proceeding.
Should you use a template Answer to defend yourself
No! Absolutely never use a template Answer to respond to a debt collection lawsuit or any other legal matter. Even if you think a company selling you a template is reputable think twice. Template Answers are never the best response to a debt collection lawsuit. Never!
In most cases using a template Answer in a debt collection case will not adequately address the specific allegations and defenses raised in your case. They are generic by design and the companies selling them are usually operated by non-attorney marketing companies or inexperienced attorneys who have no real world knowledge of the litigation process. Indeed, it would be malpractice for a real attorney to file the template Answers we have seen on the market.
Template Answers do not involve the required careful review of the complaint and other relevant documents and do not tailor your answer to the specific circumstances of your case. On the contrary, template Answers are intentionally generic so the companies selling them can sell the some template to different people. They completely disregard that your case is unique and has a unique set of facts and circumstances.
Template Answers also almost always miss critical affirmative defenses you can raise. Affirmative defenses are legal arguments that can be used to challenge the creditor’s claim and to assert that you do not owe the debt.
If you insist on using a template answer in a debt collection case, review the template carefully and modify it as needed to fit your specific situation. Additionally, you may want to consider seeking legal advice from an attorney to ensure that your answer is complete and properly presented to the court.
Representing yourself, also known as pro se representation, in a debt collection case can be a challenging and risky endeavor. While it is possible to represent yourself in court, it requires a significant amount of knowledge and preparation.
In most cases we recommended you hire an attorney or at a minimum seek legal advice from an attorney. An attorney can provide you with guidance on your options and help you understand the potential consequences of your decision.
Ultimately, the choice to represent yourself in a debt collection case is a personal one and will depend on your individual circumstances. Representing yourself in court can be time-consuming and requires a significant amount of effort and dedication. Prepare yourself and be ready to devote the necessary time and resources to your case, you should seek legal representation.