3 things to do if you have been sued by a debt collector
No one wants someone pounding on their door- but if you are expecting that “knock” then you are probably worried about getting sued. There are 3 things you should do if you are sued by a debt collector.
#1 Answer the Door
In Arizona, a debt collector can hire a process server to physically hand you a Summons & Complaint- but there is also alternative service. If you refuse to answer the door or otherwise dodge service, the debt collector can request service by other means- like sticking the docs on your door, mailing them to you, or even publishing the info in a newspaper.
The bottom line is, you will probably be served, and it is always better to know what you are facing than avoiding it. Also, this is how default judgments happen- if you never respond to the lawsuit, the debt collector can get a judgment against you, then they can (and probably will) try to garnish your wages!
So, step one to being sued- answer the door.
#2 Read the documents
Being sued is always scary, but you have options!
You can file an Answer – meaning you have a legal defense to owing the debt (not having money to pay is not a legal defense) and you want your day in court to try to avoid a judgment. You’d be shocked by how many times the wrong party is sued or a party is sued for a debt they don’t owe. We suggest consulting with an attorney before you file an Answer.
You can also negotiate a settlement. Many debt collectors will negotiate a settlement to avoid additional litigation expense. The key here is to be nice, persistent, and make a reasonable offer. If you are curious about what to offer, consult with an attorney who does debt consolidation or debt collection litigation defense (like us).
You can also file bankruptcy. Sometimes the amount of the lawsuit, plus more lawsuits on the way are enough to start considering bankruptcy. Bankruptcy gets a bad wrap but it is for helping people get a fresh start. Life can throw unexpected curve balls, and sometimes financially you just can’t recover. So instead of fighting the lawsuit, or settling this one only to have to file bankruptcy later, we suggest consulting with a bankruptcy attorney about your options.
Regardless of which option you pick, the second step is reading the documents so you know what you are facing.
#3 Act Quickly
The timeline for responding to a lawsuit is quick- usually 20 days from the date of service. You can request an extension to file an Answer from the Plaintiff to get more time, but it won’t prevent a default judgment if you take too long.
Ignoring the lawsuit won’t make it go away- in fact, doing so will make it worse. You can’t fight a judgment years later, plus they tack on attorney fees, court costs, and interest. At some point you’ll be stuck paying – like when you want to buy or sell your house, or if your wages are garnished. It’s not fun, but you can avoid all of this by doing step 3 act quickly.
It’s usually not as bad as you think.
We deal with these things every single day, so ask us for help- it’s only $25 for the consultation. Get answers, and a plan.