The Ultimate Guide to Responding to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Utah

George Simons

July 01, 2019

Getting sued for a debt is just the worst. This article will make the process a little bit easier and tell you what you need to know to respond to a debt in Utah.

Steps to Respond to a Debt Collection Case in Utah

You know you’re being sued for a debt if you receive a document in the mail saying you’re being sued for a debt. This document is called a Summons and Complaint. Normally, you only have 21 days to do respond to the complaint. You can respond with either an Answer document or a Motion; usually, you’ll want to respond with an Answer document.

(Go here to learn more about Summons.)

There are four steps to respond to a complaint.

  • Answer each issue of the complaint
  • Assert affirmative defenses
  • File the answer with the court and serve the plaintiff with answer

Let’s take a look at each one.

1. Answer each issue of the Complaint.

Answering a Complaint will most likely seem very intimidating, but the process is really quite simple. All you need to do is read the complaint carefully and then decide how you want to respond to each numbered paragraph. You can respond in one of three ways:

  • Agree
  • Disagree
  • I don’t know

Just choose one of these answers and write it into your Answer. If you choose “disagree” you can explain why you disagree.

2. Assert affirmative defenses.

“Assert affirmative defenses” means give reasons for why you shouldn’t lose the lawsuit or why you don’t owe the debt. These defenses are written into your Answer.

Here are some of the more common defenses we see:

  • The account with the debt is not your account
  • The contract was already canceled. Therefore you don’t owe the creditor anything.
  • The statute of limitations has expired. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline on an action. In this case, the statute of limitations sets the deadline at 6 years, so you can’t be sued for a debt based on a contract from six years ago.
  • The debt has been paid or excused.
  • The debt has been partially paid.
  • You were a co-signer but were not informed of your rights as a co-signer.

These are a few of the many affirmative defenses. Being unable to pay the debt is not a legal defense to the debt.

(Here’s the official section of code establishing affirmative defenses.)

3. File the answer with the court and serve the plaintiff.

Somewhat surprisingly, this is oftentimes the hardest part of the process: actually getting your Answer to the courts. Utah courts require defendant debtors who don’t have an attorney to file the answer by mail or in person. So here’s what you need to do:

  • Print two copies of your Answer
  • Mail one copy to the court
  • Mail the other copy to the plaintiff’s attorney.

The address for both should be in the Summons and Complaint you received in the mail. The attorney’s address should be on the top left of the first page. The court’s address should be in the first two paragraphs.

There is no fee for filing an Answer. The Answer needs to arrive at the court before the 21-day deadline.

Ways to file an answer for a debt collection lawsuit.

Online with SoloSuit

Includes:
Response to Complaint
Affirmative Defenses
PDF Answer
Filing
Status Updates
Debt Collection Attorney Review
100% Online

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Print &amp Fill Out Paper Forms

Print the PDF template, fill out by hand, and snail mail to courts and plaintiff.

Print PDF

Hire A Debt Collection Attorney

Pay a Lawyer to Fill Out the Form

UT Bar Directory

>>Read the NPR story: A Student Solution To Give Utah Debtors A Fighting Chance

Debt Collectors use dirty tricks.

Debt collectors use many tactics of questionable ethics to make you lose your case.

Legalese. Lawyers use a language called Legalese. Some people would say it’s English, but you probably don’t think so. They use complicated words like “hereby” and “herein”. This is mostly an intimidation tactic. It isn’t legally required to communicate in this language and actually, there is a large movement to stop using legalese and just communicate in plain English. But when suing a regular person, lawyers continue to use it to make it difficult for you to know what is going on.

The best approach to deal with legalese is to first remember to breathe. Then Google difficult terms. Most of the words you don’t recognize will probably come up with a “Law” or “Archaic” tag.

Serving you before filing with the courts. This is a real sneaky move. Debt collectors in Utah will serve you first and then file the case with the courts 10 days later. This allows them to not put a case number on your Summons and Complaint. This again makes it more difficult for debtors to know what they’re being sued for. When a debtor calls into the court the court will ask for the case number. If there is no case number yet, the court can’t help point the debtor in the right direction. The best way to deal with the lack of a case number is to read the Complaint carefully to determine why you are being sued.

(Read the official rule Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 3 here.)

How to avoid a default judgment.

In Utah, over 50 percent of all cases are for debt collection. This equals about 54,000 cases a year. So if you are being sued for a debt, you aren’t alone. Of these 54,000 cases, in about 90 percent of them, the defendant debtor automatically loses simply because they don’t file an answer. This is called losing by default judgment. They don’t file an answer because they can’t afford an attorney and the courts are difficult to navigate alone.

The debt collector is banking on this.

They are expecting you to lose automatically. In Utah, you usually only have 21 days to file an answer. If you do not file within that time and you were properly served, then the collector will request a default judgment. This means the plaintiff gets everything they asked for and you won’t have a chance to tell your side of the story.

(Go here for more info on Default Judgments.)

What is SoloSuit?  

We’ve tried to simplify the process for responding to a debt lawsuit as much as we can, but the bottom line is: it’s complicated. SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks defendants all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, users can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or they can pay SoloSuit to file it for them and to have an attorney review the document.

>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

FAQ

Can I sue my debt collector?

Yes. You may want to sue the debt collector right back or to sue another party involved. Suing the creditor is called a counterclaim. Suing another party is called a crossclaim. If you think the creditor violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you can state this in your counterclaim.

Can you settle a debt after being served?

Yes. Most people who use SoloSuit.com settle their debt after being sued. They’ll have a pre-trial settlement conference where they discuss the debt with the collector and come to an arrangement. Usually, the debtor will be able to negotiate down the debt after filing an answer. The two parties will decide on a stipulated payment plan, a legally enforceable document that lays out a payment schedule.

You can also try mediation.

What do you do if a debt collector sues you?

If a debt collector sues you, you should take action immediately. You only have 21 or 30 days to file an answer. You can use SoloSuit.com to file an answer.

How long can a creditor collect on a debt in Utah?

In Utah, the statute of limitations are:

  • 4 years for credit card debt and spoken contracts
  • 6 years for written contracts
  • 8 years for federal and state judgments

What percentage do creditors usually settle for?

After filing an answer using SoloSuit.com, people are able to negotiate down their debt to around 30%-50% of the original debt. So, when entering a negotiation, it might make sense to start low, around 15%, and go up from there. So if you owe a debt of $1000 and then file an answer using SoloSuit.com, you could then negotiate it down to pay only $300.

Can collections take you to court?

Yes. Debt collectors can take you to court, suing you for a debt. Many people don’t realize this. They think they may be able to avoid paying for a debt forever. But, when it comes to a certain point, the collector will likely sue for the debt.

The process might look like this. A person owes a year’s worth of payments to a gym for a membership. The gym tries to collect those payments for another year, with no success. The gym sells that debt to a debt collector. The debt collector sues the debtor for the amount owed plus his attorney’s fees which are $500. If the debtor doesn’t respond in 21 days, he’ll now owe $1500 plus interest.

So, yes, there is a strong incentive to sue to collect on debts.

What happens when you get a summons for debt?

If you receive a summons for a debt, it means you are being sued for that summons. If you received a summons, you will have also received a complaint. You need to respond to the complaint by filing an answer with the courts and serving an answer on the plaintiff. You can do this with SoloSuit.com

How do you respond to a debt lawsuit without a lawyer?

Oftentimes, people are sued for a debt of less than $1000. Many attorneys require a $3000 retainer to get involved in a lawsuit. It doesn’t make sense to pay an attorney $3000 for a $1000 debt. In these cases, you can respond to a debt lawsuit without an attorney. You can use your state court’s website to find resources like templates that you can fill out to respond. Or you can use SoloSuit.com.

(Here is the Utah courts page on debt collection.)

What happens when someone sues you and you have no money?

If you’re being sued for a debt and you have no money, you aren’t totally off of the hook. If you lose the lawsuit, the debt will greatly increase in size, because the other side’s attorney fees will now be added to the debt. Also, the creditor will be able to collect on the debt for another 8 years. That means if at some point you get an income in those next 8 years, the creditor will be able to garnish it. Also, the creditor can put a lien on your assets like a house or a car. That means that if you own a house, once you sell it, that money goes first to pay off the debt.

How many days do you have to respond to a lawsuit?

If you are being sued in Utah and you receive the lawsuit in the mail in Utah, you have 21 calendar days to respond. In many other situations, you have 30 days. This includes weekends and holidays. If you don’t file a response within the deadline then you will most likely lose your case automatically.

What happens if you ignore a lawsuit?

Sadly, as with many things in life, ignoring a debt lawsuit doesn’t make it go away. It only makes it get worse. Here’s what will most likely happen if you ignore a debt lawsuit:

  • Automatically lose your case. This is called default judgment and is what happens if you don’t file within the 21- or 30-day window allotted.
  • Owe attorneys fees. Even if you don’t hire an attorney, when you lose your case you’ll need to pay the attorneys fees for the opposing party. These start at $500.
  • Garnished wages. When you lose, the opposing party will be allowed to garnish 25% of your paycheck. This means they take 25% out of every paycheck — you never see the money.
  • Liens. The opposing party can also put a lien on your property.