If you’re struggling with debt, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans are familiar with that sinking feeling when an envelope marked “PAST DUE” in big red letters arrives in the mail. Finding out that a debt collector is suing you for payments you owe is scary, but you still have legal rights as the debtor.
Depending on the circumstances, you could even have the case dismissed. This requires knowledge of Texas debt laws and consumer rights. Working with debt resolution attorneys like the professionals at Ciment Law Firm, PLLC, who have extensive experience with debt collections defense and litigation, ensures that you discover all your options.
What Should I Do If A Debt Collector Sues Me?
First and foremost: do not ignore the summons that you received from the debt collection law firm. You must respond to the lawsuit to defend yourself. If you refuse to engage, the court will grant a default judgment against you. A default judgment takes place when a defendant does not respond to a court summons or fails to appear in court. When this happens, the court could rule in favor of the plaintiff by default.
Whether the debt is valid or not, you should strongly consider contacting a lawyer. Debt defense lawyers know your rights and can help you strengthen your case no matter what type of debts you owe. They also know what evidence can get the case dismissed.
It’s beneficial to have a lawyer represent you in court for more than their legal expertise. They are probably familiar with the judges and other attorneys, which will improve your standing.
How Do I Respond to a Lawsuit?
When you (the defendant) are served papers by the debt collector (the plaintiff) called a “Petition,” it’s in your best interest to respond to the complaint. Your response is the “Answer,” a term that refers to the defendant’s first communication regarding the lawsuit. You will send your Answer to the court, and the plaintiff should receive a copy.
In Texas, you can either file your Answer online using a specific form or write a letter to the court. Whatever your method of response, your reply should deny the allegations, thereby putting the burden of proof on the plaintiff, leaving the debt collector with the burden to provide evidence that the debt is valid. You can achieve this by denying the allegations and asserting the appropriate affirmative defenses against the claim, which require no proof to provide in your Answer.
An affirmative defense is a legal term that pertains to a defendant’s response to being accused of a certain crime. When a defendant uses an affirmative defense, they admit to committing the crime for which someone is accusing them, while explaining or justifying the incident.
When sucessful, an affirmative defense can help you reduce your legal liability. Common debt lawsuit defense strategies include:
- The defendant has paid the debt.
- The statute of limitations has passed to collect the debt.
- The paperwork is missing or has errors.
- The plaintiff used illegal debt collection practices.
- The contract is illegal.
- The defendant is not the account owner.
What Happens When You Get Served Papers for Debt in Texas?
When a debt collection agency serves you papers for a lawsuit, you’ll typically receive two documents in the mail or in person: a summons and a petition. Once you receive the documents, the clock starts ticking for you to respond to the court. In Texas, you generally have 20 days to supply your Answer, plus however many days until the Monday after the deadline. If your 20 days end on a Wednesday, you’ll have an additional five days to respond.
The case may not go to trial. If the debt is invalid, with the help of a debt defense attorney, the judge could dismiss the lawsuit before you go to trial. Otherwise, your attorney will compile evidence for your defense in court or in negotiations with the plaintiff.
What Happens If You Ignore a Collection Agency?
Ignoring all the mail and phone calls from a collection agency can feel like the only option for people who have no way of paying back the debt they owe. The reality is that pretending the problem doesn’t exist does not make it disappear. When you are in a situation where your debt is more than you can handle, it’s best to get on track to recovery, even if you have to file for bankruptcy.
If you ignore a lawsuit from a debt collection agency, you are leaving yourself defenseless in court. The judge will not challenge the plaintiff without a response (Answer) from you, the defendant. You also lose the opportunity to provide evidence against the debt collector to get the case dismissed.
You don’t have to go through the process alone. A debt resolution attorney can give you a debt relief option to start over.
Note: some debt collectors may push the limit in trying to reach you with methods bordering on harassment. For practical tips, download our free report, Consumers Beware! 7 Illegal Debt Collection Practices (And How You Can Fight Back).
Contact Ciment Law Firm, PLLC, Texas Consumer Protection
Getting sued for your debt can feel like the end of the world, but an experienced debt resolution attorney can make the process easier and help you get back to normal. Daniel Ciment, the founder of Ciment Law Firm, PLLC, and his team are very familiar with the debt collection process and want to share their knowledge to help clients.
Before you search for a “debt attorney near me,” consider Ciment Law Firm, PLLC. We created a 3-step program to help you settle your debt in the state of Texas. We will resolve your debts by defending you in a lawsuit, protect your rights against illegal practices by debt collection agencies, and rebuild your credit.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.