As our loyal readers know, our new book in the Guerrilla Guides to the Law series will be coming out soon. The working title is The Guerrilla Guide to Defending Yourself Against a Debt Collector, although that title may change before final publication.
However, I thought I would just do a quick post about the biggest mistake that is made when someone is sued by a debt collection agency or for a debt.
It may seem simple but the biggest mistake is…not filing an answer.
When a person is sued on any type of lawsuit they have a certain number of days to file a response. The days vary depending on which court they are used in but the average amount of time which a defendant has to file a formal Answer to the lawsuit is about 20 days. Usually the summons attached to the front of the lawsuit will tell you exactly how many days are available, using language like "the first Monday following the expiration of twenty (20) days from date of service.
The key to this is that by failing to file an answer within the prescribed time limit the plaintiff (the one who is suing) can ask the court to render a "default judgment" which means that the person who was sued loses on all accounts and the plaintiff will usually be awarded whatever sum of money they request. By not filing an answer the defendant also waives any defenses they have including statute of limitations, that they are the wrong person, or that they don't owe the money. Once the judgment is entered, even if the defendant didn't owe it, then the judgment is on them.
An answer is simple, and requires only a few minutes worth of work so a good rule of thumb is to always file an answer. Everything else can be sorted out later.