Categories: Debt Collection

How Should You Answer a Debt Collection Lawsuit?

This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)

Have you recently been served with a lawsuit for debt collection? If so, you may be wondering how to proceed.

Here, we will examine the best practices for immediately after you are served with a debt collection lawsuit, as well as what to do throughout your response to ensure the best possible outcome. As always, the best advice you’ll find will come from an experienced legal professional, so after browsing this article, be sure to give your local attorney a call!

First Steps: How to Respond to a Debt Collection Lawsuit 

When most people who are served with a debt collection lawsuit first receive notice thereof, they are shocked, upset, or offended. They may feel the need to ignore or respond hatefully to being served, or to immediately attempt to argue the facts of their case.

This is not legally prudent. If you have a strong defense, your attorney will help you build and present it in court if necessary. Your first response should be one of calm, clear thought. Answer with the appropriate documentation promptly and correctly. Try not to take the case personally.

It is important to remember that you are not legally obligated to answer the complaint against you when served with a debt collection suit, but if you plan to defend yourself in any capacity you must do so. If not, a judgment will be entered against you automatically. This means that whoever entered the complaint against you will win by default, receiving everything they have asked for in the complaint.

What Happens if You Can’t Afford to Pay Your Debt?

Some people who are served with a debt collection lawsuit may hold out hope that an inability to pay their debt partially or in full will save them from having to do so. This isn’t the case.

Regardless of whether you can afford to repay your debt or not, you are still legally obligated to do so. Even if you have already agreed to a smaller amount and have been making regular payments to that end, if an entity files a complaint and wins their case against you, the amount that they win from that case will be added to what you have already paid and what you currently owe them. The inability to pay is never a defense in the case of a debt collection lawsuit.

What Can Be Done to Contest a Complaint?

All of this so far makes it seem like you have to sit down and accept whatever is said in a complaint against you in a debt collection lawsuit, but that isn’t necessarily true. There are many ways in which a defendant can refute or disprove what is being said against them – and many ways that a complaint against you might not really be against you, at all.

First, when a complaint is served, it may have multiple names attached to it. If the debt is not yours, it may still be served to you in connection with the debt of a spouse, partner, or other connected entity. This is simply to ensure that the complaint receives the proper attention. You should still respond to the complaint appropriately, since your response is your chance to answer for what is or is not your responsibility regarding the debt.

To that end, the summons you receive along with the complaint will detail your rights regarding your defense. These include:

  1. Your right to defend or explain yourself.
  2. The right to take up to twenty days from the day you or someone in your household first receives the complaint in writing to respond to it. (Not twenty days from the date it is issued.)
  3. Your right to refute information in the complaint if it is inaccurate.

Likewise, the summons will also detail how and where to respond. You can either submit a notice of appearance, or an answer to the complaint.

A notice of appearance simply states that you will be appearing in court as part of the lawsuit and stops any default judgment from being entered against you as a result. It does nothing to explain your position in the suit or defend your stance. This is the job of your answer.

How to and Why Submit an Answer?

You may wonder what the importance of submitting an answer to this type of complaint is, especially if the other party already knows your reply. If you are guilty of the debt detailed in the complaint, you may be upset, embarrassed, or just want to forget about that part of your life. Even if you’re willing to repay the debt, you may not feel like replying to the complaint.

It is still prudent to do so. An answer helps you to retain your rights in the case and allows you to stay informed of any further or future litigation surrounding it.

In a proper answer to a debt collection lawsuit complaint and summons, you should type or clearly write your response. The common responses are that you either admit, deny, or lack knowledge of the statements being made against you. You will be required to answer for each statement being made.

It is important that you do your best to answer honestly and correctly. If you truly do not know or remember what is being discussed or suggested, claiming to lack knowledge of the statement is generally the best response. Remember to always retain one copy of your answer for your records and submit the other promptly as the summons outlines.

Still not sure what to do in response to your debt collection lawsuit? Contact the experts at the Van Horn Law Group. These legal professionals have the skill and experience you need to navigate the process with ease and stay stress-free while doing it. There’s no need to let being served with a lawsuit make you feel helpless or hopeless. Give your local legal pros a call and get on the right track to defense success!

Article Name
How Should You Answer a Debt Collection Lawsuit?
Best practices for immediately after you are served with a debt collection lawsuit, as well as what to do throughout your response to ensure the best possible outcome.
Publisher Name
Van Horn Law Group
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Published by
Chad Van Horn

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