New York Debt Lawsuit Attorneys NYC[yoast-breadcrumb]
Fighting Back Against Debt Lawsuits in New York
Debt lawsuits can be scary. You get served papers full of legalese saying you owe money, and the plaintiff wants a judgment against you. It’s enough to make anyone feel powerless. But there’s hope – you can fight back. As a New Yorker, you have rights and defenses. And at Delancey Street, we’re here to help regular folks stand up to debt collectors and avoid unfair judgments.
You Are Not Alone
First, know you’re not alone. New York sees hundreds of thousands of debt collection lawsuits every year. In 2018-2019 alone, over 265,000 suits were filed in New York City and district civil court. The vast majority – 95% – involved defendants without a lawyer. That’s daunting. But we’ll break down how you can respond, even without an attorney.
Don’t Ignore the Suit
It’s tempting to ignore a debt lawsuit. But that’s risky. If you don’t respond in time, the court will likely enter a default judgment against you. That allows the plaintiff to garnish wages, put liens on property, and seriously damage your credit. Instead, you have to respond to the lawsuit. This is called “answering” the complaint. Your answer will explain why you think the plaintiff’s case is wrong and list your defenses. We’ll cover common defenses later.
You Have 20-30 Days to Respond
In New York, you have 20-30 days to answer a debt collection lawsuit, depending on how you were served:
- 20 days – If you were served in person
- 30 days – If the papers were left at your home and mailed to you
Mark your calendar as soon as you receive the papers so you know when the deadline is. Answering late is better than not at all, but timeliness is important.
What Should Your Answer Include?
Your answer will address two key things – the complaint allegations and your defenses:
- Complaint Allegations – Go through each paragraph of the plaintiff’s complaint and say whether you agree, disagree, or lack enough info to respond.
- Defenses – Explain all reasons why you think the plaintiff shouldn’t win. We’ll cover common defenses below.
Make several copies of your answer. File the original with the court clerk and send a copy to the plaintiff’s lawyer via certified mail. Keep a copy for your records too.
Common New York Debt Defenses
You may have more defenses than you realize. Here are some of the most common ones New Yorkers assert:
- You don’t owe the debt – If the debt isn’t yours, dispute it. This is a full defense.
- Wrong amount – The plaintiff may have the math wrong, even after interest and fees. Dispute the amount.
- Unjust enrichment – If the amount seems exorbitantly high, argue it would unjustly enrich the plaintiff.
- Statute of limitations expired – In New York, most consumer debts have a 3-year time limit. If it’s been longer, assert this defense.
- Debt discharged in bankruptcy – If the debt was wiped out in your bankruptcy case, you shouldn’t have to pay it.
- Plaintiff lacks standing – The plaintiff must prove it owns your debt. Make them show proof.
- Identity theft – If someone opened the account in your name illegally, assert you aren’t liable.
There are other possible defenses too, like improper service of the lawsuit papers or issues with collateral sales. The key is to think about any facts specific to your case that could weaken the plaintiff’s claim. Then be sure to include those defenses in your answer.
Getting Help Responding to the Lawsuit
Answering a lawsuit takes time and can feel overwhelming, especially if legal terms are foreign to you. But help is out there.At Delancey Street, our attorneys can provide guidance on putting together your answer and asserting defenses. We assist hundreds of New Yorkers facing debt lawsuits every year. And for those who can’t afford a lawyer, we also connect clients to free legal aid resources.You can also turn to non-profit groups like Upsolve that offer limited legal advice and education to consumers sued for debt. Their volunteer counselors can walk you through the basic steps of contesting the suit, even without formal legal training.Friends or family with legal experience can potentially help too. The key is finding someone to help decipher the legalese so you understand your rights.
What Happens After You Answer
Once you submit your answer, the case continues. Many lawsuits settle before trial. But if not, you’ll have to appear in court and be prepared to prove your defenses.Throughout the process, be sure to keep all records related to the account – bills, statements, receipts, etc. These can help support your case. And continue to seek guidance from legal aid organizations, attorneys, or knowledgeable friends.With the right evidence and support, you can show the court why the plaintiff shouldn’t win. Don’t let debt collectors intimidate you. Fight back.
We’re Here to Help
Dealing with a debt lawsuit is tough, but you don’t have to go it alone. The attorneys at Delancey Street have years of experience defending New Yorkers sued by creditors and debt buyers. We’re passionate about protecting the rights of consumers unfairly targeted by collectors.If you’ve been served with a debt collection lawsuit, give us a call. Let’s sit down, review the complaint, and craft an answer to fight back. With an experienced legal team on your side, you can avoid default judgment and get the best possible resolution to the case. Don’t wait – help is a phone call away.