Learning that a debt collector has filed a lawsuit against you is a scary thing. The fact is, though, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a debt collector has every right to file a lawsuit in an attempt to recover the debt. When they do, you may not know what steps to take, or how to respond to the suit. It’s important you respond and proceed properly, as failing to do so could hurt your case. If you are facing a lawsuit from a debt collector, the first thing you should do is speak to a Florida debt defense attorney.
Responding to a Lawsuit
It’s natural to become upset, shocked, and even offended after receiving notice that a debt collector has filed a lawsuit against you. However, it’s crucial that you remain calm. Do not ignore the notice, and certainly do not respond to it in a disrespectful or angry manner. Also, don’t try to argue the facts of the case at this point.
If you’ve already hired an attorney, they will review the facts of your case and help you build a strong defense. They will also present this case in court, if necessary, and refute the claims of the debt collector. Prior to this though, an attorney will help you draft a response to the lawsuit.
An attorney will also inform that you are under no legal obligation to respond to the lawsuit. However, if an attorney believes you have a good defense, they will also recommend that you do respond. If you do not, a judgment will automatically be filed against you. This means that the debt collector will win by default, and you’ll become legally responsible for paying the full amount the debt collector has asked for in the suit.
Inability to Pay
When struggling with significant debt, many debtors hope that the whole issue will just go away. They may hold out hope that the statute of limitations on the debt will expire, or think they can simply claim that they cannot afford to repay the debt.
If the statute of limitations has run out on a debt, this can provide a proper defense to a lawsuit. However, an inability to pay is not a defense. The courts will hold you responsible for the full amount of debt if you lose your lawsuit, even if you prove that you cannot afford to pay it. Unfortunately, being unable to pay the debt is never a defense when facing a lawsuit.
Contesting a Complaint
Often, people think that if a debt collector has filed a lawsuit against them, there’s nothing they can do about it. This is not true. Debtors can refute or disprove statements within a lawsuit and this can provide a valid defense. For example, you may be able to prove that the complaint isn’t against you at all. A debt collector may have sent you a complaint that names your partner or spouse in an attempt to get it to the appropriate party.
When you first receive the complaint, you will also receive a summons. This summons outlines your right to defend the claims made by the debt collector. The summons will state that you have a right to defend or explain yourself, that you have a right to respond to the complaint in writing within 20 days of receiving it, and that you have the right to refute any information in the complaint that is not true or is inaccurate.
The summons will also contain information on how to respond to the lawsuit. You have two choices: you can answer the complaint by following the instructions within the summons, or you can submit a notice to appear. A notice to appear is a statement saying you will appear in court. This prevents a default judgment from being issued against you, which will hold you responsible for the full amount claimed in the lawsuit.
A notice to appear does not allow you to explain your position or defend your case. This is done in court.
The Importance of Answering the Complaint
Again, when debtors receive complaints or notice that a lawsuit has been filed against them, they often just want to ignore it. It’s important you don’t. Answering the complaint will protect your rights and will keep you informed of any future or further litigation pertaining to it.
The most common responses are to either admit, deny or state a lack of knowledge about the claims made against you in the lawsuit. For every statement that is made in the complaint, you have to provide an answer. You cannot simply deny one claim, and not respond to the others.
The response must be clearly written. It’s also important that in your answer, you remain completely honest and answer the claims as accurately as possible. It’s for this reason that lack of knowledge as an answer is possible. If you truly have no recollection of a claim made in the lawsuit, or it is unfamiliar to you, you can claim lack of knowledge. In many cases, this is often the best response until you and your attorney can build a proper defense for your case.
After you have answered the claims in the lawsuit, you must submit your response in the manner indicated on the summons. You should also always keep a copy of each answer to a claim for your own personal records.
Speak to a Florida Debt Defense Attorney for Help with a Lawsuit
No one should ever have to face debt alone, but it’s particularly crucial that no one tries to defend themselves in a debt collection lawsuit. A Fort Lauderdale debt defense attorney can advise on the best defenses to use in these claims, and may even help you get out from under the debt altogether.
If you’re struggling with debt and think it might not be valid, or you’ve already been served with a complaint, it’s important you speak to our attorneys at Loan Lawyers as soon as possible. We know the unethical tactics debt collectors sometimes use, and that they may not even have grounds to file a lawsuit against you. If you’ve already been served, time may be running out. Call us today at (954) 523-HELP (4357) or contact us online for your free consultation.
Loan Lawyers has helped over 5,000 South Florida homeowners and consumers with their debt problems, we have saved over 2,000 homes from foreclosure, eliminated more than $100,000,000 in mortgage principal and consumer debt, and have recovered over $10,000,000 on behalf of our clients due to bank, loan servicer, and debt collector violations.