What to do if You are Sued by a Debt Collector
Have you received a complaint or notice of lawsuit from a debt collector who has filed a lawsuit against you? There are some basic things that you should do in order to help protect your rights.
Respond to the Complaint or Notice
The Notice or the Summons included with the Complaint should tell you how many days you have to respond and/or when to appear at hearing in order to avoid a default judgment being entered against you. If a hearing date is listed on the documents you received, you can appear at the hearing in person to answer the lawsuit. If no hearing date is given, you should respond in writing right away, as missing a deadline can result in a default judgment in favor of the debt collector. Once a default judgment is obtained, the collector may be able to garnish your wages. You can respond by disputing the debt, the amount you owe, or offering a settlement. If you are unsure how to respond to the notice or complaint in writing, you may want to hire an attorney to assist you with this.
If you Believe the Debt is Paid or the Amount is Wrong
If you believe that you have paid the debt you are being sued over or that you owe less than the amount the debt collector is suing for, gather receipts for all payments that you have made. Receipts can be cancelled checks, entries on bank or credit card statements, or internet payment confirmations. You will either need to provide your receipts to the debt collector's attorney or bring them to Court as evidence that the debt is paid or the amount is less than the collector has listed on the notice or complaint.
If you Wish to Settle Without Going to Court
If the amount of the debt is correct and the debt belongs to you, you may want to try to settle for a lesser amount or by agreeing to a payment plan and avoid going to court. This is best done in writing and should be directed to the debt collector's attorney. You may want an attorney to assist you with this, as an experienced one can help you work out the best deal, possibly settling the account for much less than what is actually owed.
If you are Unsure if the Debt is Yours or the Amount is Correct
If the original contract was not attached to the notice or complaint, or you are being sued for credit card or other installment debt and need to see monthly statements, do not be afraid to contact the debt collectors attorney and request this information. Particularly if you are unsure if the debt belongs to you or if the amount they have sued you for is correct. If the collector's counsel fails to provide you with this information, you may need to enlist an attorney to help you with the lawsuit.
When to Contact an Attorney
As with any lawsuit, it is best to contact an attorney right away so that he or she can be involved in every step of the suit and help ensure that you do not get taken advantage of or your rights are not violated. The debt collector will almost certainly have an attorney and you should have one too. It is also very possible that the collector violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) at some point during the collection process and an FDCPA attorney can advise you of your rights and any potential claims that you have against the collector.
If a debt collector or creditor has sued you, please contact our office at 1-800-219-3577, for a free, no obligation consultation.