How to Defend a Collection Lawsuit

closeup photo of gavel

The bills keep coming in, the phone won’t stop ringing, and now a letter arrives with a court date. You’re being sued. The first instinct may be to ignore it, but this is the worst thing you can do!

If you have been sued by a creditor for money, the most important thing to do is respond to the lawsuit and show up to all court dates. Never ignore a lawsuit or complaint because if you do, you will automatically lose!

Banks, credit card companies and debt buying companies usually file several small claim collections cases at a time, and most people don’t even show up. They make money on those that don’t show, because once they have a default judgment they are more likely to get paid. Once the creditor wins by default, they then can request additional legal resources to collect the debt, such as asking the court to bring you to court by warrant, or seeking to garnish your paystub. Often merely threatening further legal action will be enough for them to get paid. But if the person had participated in the Court process, they may not have been responsible for any payments.

So please, don’t ignore a collection complaint! Contact a lawyer to get a free consultation and see what your rights are. You have the right to request that the creditor prove they own the debt, and that you are responsible for the claim and for the amount alleged. The creditor has the burden of proving this. Many times, the creditor that has sued you has no proof that you owe the debt, which means that you can win the case and get the lawsuit dismissed!

Always ask the creditor’s lawyer for any and all documents that show you owe them money. This is called “discovery” and you are allowed by law to request this information. You also may be able to resolve your case outside of court by reaching an agreement with the creditor through discussions with their lawyer. But be careful in all discussions with the creditor’s lawyer. They will try to get you to admit you owe the debt, and will try to get you to agree to a payment plan. Don’t agree to anything you cannot afford!

If you have protected income such as social security, the Court will not consider this income when calculating your ability to pay. This means that even if the creditor proves you owe the debt and is granted a Judgment, the Court may find you are uncollectible and you will not need to pay anything at that time.

If you are being sued, there are options. Talk to a lawyer to go over all of the nuances of your situation so you are fully informed of all of your options. Depending on your financial goals, the lawyer will be able to advise you the best way to proceed. In our experience, understanding your options and making a plan will go a long way to making you feel back in control.

If you have bills or are being sued, we can help. We offer legal consultations to every Massachusetts resident that contacts us, and it is always free. Visit our contact page for information on how to reach out: massdebtrelieffoundation.org/contact-us.