You probably never imagined finding yourself being sued by a debt collector. Nobody ever plans to get into an amount of debt that they cannot repay, or at least keep up with over time. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, it can happen to anybody. All it takes is a medical bill, a cut in hours at your job, or a former spouse unable to make child support and you will find yourself using credit cards for everyday expenses like groceries, diapers, gas, and medicine. It’s a fact that the average household credit card debt in America is over $8000; that’s a six percent increase from the previous year and an annual net increase of 26 percent.
The level of household debt, combined with real estate prices, sky-high rents, and other economic indicators are giving us an eerie echo of the years that led up to the Great Recession. The middle class is being squeezed harder than ever before, and those who are barely making it teeter on the brink from paycheck to paycheck. For everyone who is looking for a light at the end of the tunnel, leading economic indicators indicate that it’s actually a train.
What should be the next step?
The first and best thing that you can do if you are faced from a summons is not to blow it off. The worst thing you can do is to ignore it, allowing your creditor to go to court and obtain a default judgment since you were not there to give your side of the story. Typically companies such as American Express, Midland Financial, and Capital One Bank only resort to the civil courts when an account is 180 days delinquent, or you have failed to make the minimum payment for the same amount of time. You need to file what is called an “answer,” which is your response to the debt collector’s complaint.
Even if your creditor or the debt collector has obtained a summary judgment, you can ask that it be set aside. In order to have the summary judgment set aside, you need these two defenses lined up and ready to go.
● The default judgment awarded by the court was based upon a complaint with what is called a substantial defect or irregularity. This means, for instance, that the creditor or debt collector gave you no notice that a default judgment was going to be entered against you, or give you notice that it had been entered. A substantial defect can also be found if you were improperly served, not really served at all or if you had a very good reason for not attending the hearing. However, judges rely on evidence, and you had better be prepared to deliver it.
● Meritorious defense rests on proving why you should have your day in court. For instance, if you have paid part of the balance that the complaint it says you owe, your debts have been discharged in bankruptcy, the debt was a result of stolen identity, the debt is time-barred, the agreement you had with the creditor or collector was unfair or if they took advantage of you.
Possibly the best thing you can do when you are being sued by a debt collector is to get qualified legal help – namely, hiring a lawyer. At Van Horn Law Group, we have lots of experience in dealing with debt and consumer law. We will be zealous advocates for your best interests, working our hardest to get you the best possible result. Call our offices in Fort Lauderdale or in West Palm Beach to make an appointment for a free initial consultation to hear your best options and make your best decision.