DEBT COLLECTORS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TELL YOU LEGAL PROCESS IS NOT A LAWSUIT OR THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ANSWER.
Has a debt collector sued you, and then told you the paperwork you got was not a lawsuit?
Debt collectors and creditors have been known to file lawsuits and then lie to the person they sued, telling them the documents they received are not legal service, or a lawsuit. They may also tell the debtor there is no need to respond or that it is nothing to worry about. They do this in order to keep the debtor from responding so that they can easily get a judgment against them.
Once you have been sued and proper service issued, you have a certain number of days to answer the complaint in writing, and/or a hearing time and date where you can appear to answer the complaint in person. Failure to respond will enable the creditor or debt collector to get a default judgment against you. Once a debt collector has a judgment, they can then begin the process to garnish your wages.
Debt collectors and creditors may tell you that the documents you received are not legal service, or do not pertain to any lawsuit they have filed, in order to keep you from properly responding and thereby guaranteeing a judgment against you and their ability to begin garnishing your wages. They may even be able to collect their court costs, attorney fees, and interest on the original amount of the debt.
So, how do you tell if the documents you received are legal process and if you have been sued? There are two easy ways that you can verify whether or not a lawsuit has been filed against you:
- Examine the Summons. If you have been sued, the person who sued you must serve you with a summons and a copy of the complaint against you. The Summons will say “Summons”, usually at the very top center of the document. It will also have the name of the Plaintiff and the Defendant (you), usually in the form of “Company A, Plaintiff, vs. John Doe, Defendant”, near the top of the document as well as the name of the State and County, Parish, or borough where you have been sued. The Summons should also tell you that you have been sued by the person named as Plaintiff and explain how to respond and how many days you have to do so. It may also have a court seal, indicating that it is an official court document.
- Call the Clerk of Courts. If you cannot tell from the Summons, or you did not receive one, you can call the Clerk of Courts in your county, parish, or borough and ask if any lawsuits have been filed against you. If you have a debt collector's or creditor's name and/or a case/cause number in the documents you received, have that information ready to help the clerk find you in the system. The Clerk should be able to tell you if anyone has recently sued you, who has done so, and when you must appear in court.
Do not rely on a creditor or debt collector to explain any documents that you receive, especially if they indicate in any way that a lawsuit may have been filed against you. It is too easy, and too commonplace, for them to lie to debtors about legal process and lawsuits.
Has a debt collector or creditor lied to you about legal documents? Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (RFDCPA), creditors and debt collectors are not allowed to tell you that legal process service is not a lawsuit or that you do not need to respond to a complaint or summons.
If a collector has lied to you about legal process please contact our office at 1-800-219-3577, for a free, no obligation consultation.