How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in South Carolina (2020 Guide)

Eva Bacevice

July 22, 2020

Summary: Do you live in South Carolina and need help responding to a debt collection lawsuit? You can use SoloSuit to guide you through the process in South Carolina.

No one ever wants to find out that they're being sued for debt collection. These days with everything else going on it probably feels like too much to handle. Chances are high that you don't have extra money laying around to hire legal assistance and are unsure how to proceed on your own. It's tempting to want to ignore it, but unfortunately it won't go away and if you don't respond you are handing victory over to the other side.

The good news is that responding on your own to a debt collection lawsuit doesn't have to be intimidating, whether you're working with SoloSuit or simply armed with more information. In this article we will walk you through the steps to provide your own response to a South Carolina debt collection action, including deadline information and forms specific to South Carolina.

Table of Contents

South Carolina Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons

Every state has its own rules for your response time in a lawsuit. In South Carolina, the deadline to respond is 30 days. If you fail to respond within that time frame, the party suing you (the plaintiff) can request that the Court issue an order in their favor, which is called a default judgment. This judgment will be for the amount they requested in the Summons and Complaint. And you will have missed the opportunity to contest the amount or any other allegations by failing to respond.

Once the plaintiff (either your creditor, or more likely a third-party debt collection company that purchased the debt from your original creditor) has a default judgment they can then get a garnishment against your wages. The garnishment would allow them to collect on the default judgment by taking money out of your paycheck before you even see it. Chances are money is already tight in your household, so, in order to avoid being garnished, the best thing you can do is file a response before the 30 day deadline.

South Carolina Answer to Summons Forms

You can use SoloSuit to generate your Answer, or you can do it on your own using the forms below.

If you want to do it on your own, and your case is in Magistrate court, you can use this Answer form from the South Carolina Magistrate courts. The South Carolina Magistrates have civil jurisdiction over legal matters when the amount in controversy does not exceed $7,500. If the amount at issue is more than $7,500, you will have to draft your own response (likely for the Circuit Court) as there is no available online form through the South Carolina court system. We will walk you through that process below, step-by-step.

Alternatively, if you decide to use SoloSuit, we will take care of all of the detail work for you by creating and filing your Answer. We'll just need you to answer a few questions online to get us started. We can then lay out your answers in the proper legal format. Before we file the paperwork on your behalf we'll have an attorney review the completed Answer to verify that everything is in the correct format.

Answer Filing Fees for South Carolina

There are fees for filing certain documents in South Carolina. Check them out below.

South Carolina Court Fees

South Carolina Motion Fees

Steps to Respond to a Debt Collection Case in South Carolina

As we discussed above, the deadline to file a response in a South Carolina debt collection is 30 days. It's very important to file before that deadline expires to preserve your rights in the legal matter and avoid a default judgment. As such, you need to know the start date to properly calculate your deadline, which is the date that the Summons and Complaint were filed against you. The filing date should be obvious on both documents, as well as the accompanying certificate of service and the court time-stamps.

Once you've calculated your deadline you'll need to determine the form of your response. It's appropriate to respond by filing either an Answer document or a Motion. Motions require a deeper understanding of the legal system and are probably best for situations where you do have legal assistance. If you're responding on your own, an Answer should be sufficient.

Even though it can certainly feel intimidating to respond to a legal matter on your own, we're here to tell you that it's less complicated than you think. All it takes is completing the below four steps, which we will go over in depth below:

  1. Create an Answer document
  2. Answer each issue of the complaint
  3. Assert affirmative defenses, if any
  4. File one copy of the Answer document with the court and serve the plaintiff with another copy.

1. Create an Answer Document.

Your first step will be to create the proper format with your Answer document. If your matter is in Magistrate court you can use their online Answer form. If your matter is in Circuit Court (for matters of more than $7,500) you'll need to format the document yourself. You don't need to worry about determining which court has jurisdiction over your case. The plaintiff already determined this when they filed the lawsuit against you. You can simply locate and use all the necessary information from the Summons and Complaint.

The information that you'll need will include the following:

  • The court information - the county, address, type of court, civil case number
  • Your personal information - name, address, phone number, etc.
  • The plaintiff's information - company name and/or their attorney's name, address and phone number

In the Magistrate's court you can fill this information in the blank spaces on the online form. For Circuit court, you'll need to create a caption that mirrors the one on your Summons and Complaint.

SoloSuit makes it easy to find the right information.

2. Answer each issue of the Complaint.

The next step is to answer each issue in the Complaint. In general you should make it a point to directly respond to each and every allegation against you separately, which we'll explain further below. If you're using the Magistrate Answer form, however, you'll need to consolidate your responses together into one of only four responses:

  1. Contest the jurisdiction of the court
  2. Admit everything in the complaint and do not want a trial
  3. Admit responsibility, but not for the total amount claimed because: ____
  4. I deny I am responsible at all because: _____

The form provides a few lines for your explanations, if needed, but you can attach additional pages if necessary. We will discuss more of what you might want to expand on in section 3 below.

Also keep in mind that you will need to sign the online form to verify that the “information contained in this answer is true and correct to the best of my knowledge” so it's important to be fully truthful with your responses.

If you're drafting your own response for Circuit Court, you should answer each numbered paragraph with one of the following three responses:

  1. Admit
  2. Deny
  3. Unable to Admit or Deny for lack of information

SoloSuit makes it simple to respond the right way.

Make certain that you are using the same number for your response as the number of the paragraph you are answering, so it is clear which response goes to which allegation.

It won't hurt your case to admit to facts that are true, such as your name or address. You do not need to deny every allegation to be victorious in court. You should deny any allegations that are not true, although you could admit in part and deny in part if the numbered paragraph contains more than one allegation. Finally, feel free to use the final option of “unable to admit or deny” if it is something that you can't independently verify, such as specific information about the debt collection company who is suing you.

3. Assert affirmative defenses.

This next step is where you get to fight back, by asserting affirmative defenses. Affirmative defenses are any reasons you can raise to show that the plaintiff does not have a case against you. This can include factual disputes, such as if your account number or name does not match the one in the pleading, or legal arguments, such as those included in the South Carolina Judicial Branch General Rules of Pleadings rule 8(c). You can assert any and every one that applies in your case.

With SoloSuit you can make the right affirmative defenses the right way.

We will discuss some of the more common affirmative defenses briefly below, but please note that this does not include all the possible choices.

  • Payment: This is the ultimate defense to any collection action, because if you can prove you paid the debt in question, that will end the lawsuit. It's more common than you might guess because usually you aren't being sued by your original creditor, rather the plaintiff represents a third-party debt collection debt company who purchased your debt for pennies on the dollar. These transactions tend to be in large bundles, so all of the details for each individual debt/account are not always fully explored by the new owner.
  • Accord and satisfaction: This refers to any agreement that you may have entered into with the creditor to pay a lesser amount to satisfy the debt in full satisfaction. Here again this could be a detail that fell through the cracks from the original creditor when the debt was purchased by a debt collection agency. Attach any proof you have of such an agreement to your Answer document.
  • The debt was already discharged in a bankruptcy. Once a debt is discharged in bankruptcy then it can no longer be pursued for collection through the legal system. So if you previously filed a personal bankruptcy that included this debt and received a discharge then the plaintiff has no legal case.
  • Statute of limitations has expired. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline for legal action. We will discuss the South Carolina statute of limitations on debt collection in more detail later in this article.

If you are using the Magistrate Answer form this is where you will likely need additional pages if you have checked the box next to response “C” or “D” so that you can list and argue all of your affirmative defenses. If you are drafting your own response, you can create a new section following your responses to Complaint to go through each relevant affirmative defense separately.

Beyond affirmative defenses you can also assert counterclaims against the plaintiff. This could be appropriate in the event that you can show that the plaintiff violated South Carolina debt collection laws. South Carolina follows the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and supplements that protection with the South Carolina Consumer Protection Code to further protect consumers from unfair debt collection in South Carolina. Please keep in mind, however, that counterclaims can be very complex and would be difficult to pursue without knowledgeable legal counsel.

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

The final step is to file your response with the proper court and serve your documents on the plaintiff to prove that you have responded within the allowed 30 day timeframe.

You should print out at least two copies of your Answer and your Appearance. Whenever possible, it is a good idea to make a third set for your own records. Make sure that you mail the first copy to the Court (use the address from the Summons and Complaint) or file in person at that Court. The other copy needs to be mailed to the plaintiff's attorney.

SoloSuit files for you.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

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

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James


Start My Answer


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

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

Statute of Limitations on Debt in South Carolina

The statute of limitations for South Carolina debt collection is three years. This means that any debt collection action for credit cards, medical debt, or ongoing contracts have to be begun before this three year period expires. Otherwise any collection efforts are time-barred because the statute of limitations expired. Exception: the statute of limitations on judgment debts is 10. So if you lose your debt lawsuit and the collector gets a judgment against you, they can come after you for 10 years.

South Carolina Statute of Limitations
on Debt

Debt Type

Deadline in Years

Oral

3

Written

3

Mortgage

3

Open

3

Credit Card

3

Judgment

10


Source: Findlaw



Every state has at least one government-funded organization that provides free legal services to people who cannot otherwise afford it. In South Carolina you can check out either of the below organizations:

South Carolina Legal Services

South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center

South Carolina Court Locations

Go here for a list of South Carolina Court Locations

South Carolina Court Locations

Key Takeaways

In short, here's a quick review on how to answer a summons for debt collection in South Carolina.

  • Remember your response deadline is 30 days
  • Use SoloSuit, draft your own response, or use the below court form to draft your Answer.

Magistrate Answer form

Follow these three steps:

  1. Answer each issue in the complaint.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses
  3. File and serve the Answer

Good Luck!

How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection Guides for Other States

Here's a list of guides for other states.

All 50 states.