Will A Debt Collector Sue And Take You To Court Heres What To Know[yoast-breadcrumb]
Will A Debt Collector Sue And Take You To Court? Here’s What To Know
Getting sued by a debt collector can be a scary and stressful situation. However, it’s important not to panic. There are steps you can take to respond appropriately and protect your rights. This article from Delancey Street will walk you through what to expect if a debt collector takes you to court, and provide tips on how to handle it.
Can A Debt Collector Sue You?
Yes, a debt collector can sue you to collect on an unpaid debt. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), debt collectors file millions of lawsuits each year to collect consumer debts. If you fail to respond to a debt collector’s notices or make arrangements to repay the debt, the collector may decide to file a lawsuit against you to obtain a court judgment.
What Happens When A Debt Collector Sues You?
Here is the general process when a debt collector sues you to collect a debt:
- You’ll receive a “summons” – a legal document informing you that you’re being sued. This will likely come by certified mail or be delivered in person.
- The summons includes a copy of the debt collector’s “complaint” – their formal allegation filed with the court explaining why you owe the debt.
- The summons will provide instructions on how to “answer” the complaint – your formal response to the lawsuit. It will specify deadlines for responding.
- If you do not respond to the complaint by the deadline, the debt collector can seek a “default judgment” against you – meaning they automatically win the case because you did not respond.
- If you submit an answer, the case may proceed to a hearing where both sides present evidence and arguments.
- If the debt collector wins in court, they will obtain a judgment giving them the legal right to collect through means like wage garnishment or bank account levies.
What Should You Do If Sued By A Debt Collector?
If you are sued by a debt collector, here are important steps to take:
Carefully Review The Complaint
Read through the debt collector’s complaint and make sure the information is accurate. Verify the amount they claim you owe, and whether they have the right to collect on the specific debt.
- Check for errors – If any information is inaccurate, this will help your defense.
- Verify statute of limitations – Make sure the debt is not too old for them to sue on.
Formally Respond To The Lawsuit
You must formally respond to the lawsuit, either personally or through an attorney, by the deadline stated in the summons.
- Consult a consumer law attorney if possible.
- If responding yourself, file an “answer” explaining why you dispute the debt.
- Never ignore a lawsuit – this usually leads to an automatic default judgment against you.
Assert Your Rights & Defenses
When responding to the lawsuit, assert any defenses you may have and make the debt collector prove their case:
- Require they prove you actually owe the specific debt amount.
- Hold them to strict time limits if the debt is old.
- Cite any illegal collection practices as a defense.
Try To Resolve Before Court
See if you can settle the debt or agree on a payment plan before the court date. Going to court should be a last resort.
- Offer a lump sum settlement for less than the full amount.
- Propose a reasonable monthly payment plan.
- Get any agreement in writing before paying anything.
Show Up To Court Hearings
If the case does go to court, make sure to show up for all hearings. Present evidence supporting your defenses against the lawsuit.
What If The Debt Collector Violates The Law?
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors are prohibited from using abusive, deceptive or unfair tactics to collect.
- Collectors cannot harass you with frequent calls or make threats.
- They cannot lie or misrepresent information about the debt.
- They cannot discuss the debt publicly or contact you at inconvenient times or places.
If a debt collector illegally harasses you or violates other FDCPA rules when trying to collect, you can report them to the FTC or CFPB. You also have the right to sue the debt collector for damages within one year of the violation.
Tips For Dealing With A Debt Collection Lawsuit
Here are some additional tips if you’re facing a lawsuit from a debt collector:
- Stay calm – don’t panic or make rash decisions. Evaluate your options.
- Keep records – save copies of all notices, letters and court documents.
- Record interactions – if legal in your state, record calls with debt collectors.
- Seek legal help – contact a consumer lawyer or legal aid clinic for assistance.
- Don’t share personal financial information over the phone with collectors.
- Don’t ignore court deadlines – this can lead to default judgments against you.
- Show up prepared to court – bring evidence and assert your rights.
- Explore settlement options – see if you can resolve the debt out of court.
The Bottom Line
Being sued by a debt collector can be stressful. But following the right steps to respond and asserting your rights can help you reach the best outcome, whether that’s getting the case dismissed, settling the debt, or setting up a reasonable repayment plan. With the proper response, you can avoid having your wages garnished or other property seized.