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How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Florida (2023 Guide)

George Simons | July 12, 2023

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Summary: You have 20 days to respond to a debt lawsuit in Florida before you run the risk of losing by default judgment. To respond, you should draft and file an Answer to the Summons and Complaint. In your Answer document, it's best to respond to each claim against you and assert your affirmative defenses. SoloSuit can help you draft and file an Answer to your Florida lawsuit in minutes.

“I heart debt lawsuits!” — said no one ever.

Getting sued for a debt is terrible. This article will make the process of responding to a debt lawsuit a little bit easier and tell you how to answer a summons for debt collection in Florida.

Below, you'll find helpful topics on how to answer a summons for debt collection in the Sunshine State. This list includes information specific to filing in Florida, like state deadlines and forms.

Not sued yet? Send a Debt Validation Letter to get collectors off your back.

You have 20 days to respond to a debt lawsuit in Florida

In Florida, the deadline to respond to a debt Summons and Complaint is just 20 days. That's 20 days starting from the day after you are served, including Saturdays and Sundays.

For example, Jenny is being sued in Florida for a credit card debt. She is served the court Summons and Complaint on March 11th, a Friday. That means she has until March 31st, a Thursday, to submit her written response. Jenny files her Answer with the court on March 31, the last day within the deadline, and it is accepted.

Keep in mind that many courts are generous regarding deadlines, specifically when the defendant (or the person being sued) is not represented by an attorney. So, if you are responding pro se (without a lawyer), the court might give you a little extra leeway to respond.

If you already responded to the lawsuit, go here to hire an attorney to show up for you in court.

Use this sample Answer to respond to the Complaint in Florida

If you aren't sure how to write an Answer, SoloSuit can help. SoloSuit's Answer form makes it easy to draft and file a response to your Florida debt lawsuit. You can fill out the form in a matter of minutes by answering a few simple questions on SoloSuit's site. SoloSuit's Answer is created by professional attorneys and has protected consumers from losing over $100 million in predatory debt lawsuits.

Florida also has many resources for defendants who are representing themselves in a credit card debt lawsuit. Most courts even have forms you can fill out to respond to the suit.

Here's an example of one of SoloSuit's Answer forms.

Answer the Summons without hiring an attorney

If you've been sued for debt, especially credit card debt, you should respond to the court Summons and Complaint immediately. You might think you need to hire an attorney to do so, but you can actually represent yourself and save lots of money and time.

You don't need an attorney to help you draft and file your written Answer. In fact, with resources like SoloSuit, you can draft a free Answer in less than 10 minutes. SoloSuit can also file the Answer in the court on your behalf, and for a small fee, have an attorney review your court documents before sending them off.

Finding an attorney can be extremely time-consuming and challenging, and it might end up costing more than the debt you owe. Save yourself the stress and money by representing yourself with SoloSuit's help.

Steps to respond to a debt collection case in Florida

All lawsuits formally start the same way: you get two documents in the mail or via personal delivery. These documents are called the Summons and Complaint. In Florida, you have only 20 days to respond by filing an Answer. You can respond with either an Answer document or a Motion; usually, you'll want to respond with an Answer document.

If you don't respond within the 20 day period, you will automatically lose your case by default judgment.

There are three steps to respond to the Summons and Complaint.

  1. Answer each issue listed in the Complaint
  2. Assert affirmative defenses
  3. File one copy of the Answer document with the court and serve the plaintiff with another copy.

Let's take a look at each step.

1. Answer each issue of the Complaint.

Many people are intimidated by making an Answer document. And that's ok. These instructions keep it simple. Just read the Complaint and then decide how you want to respond to each numbered paragraph. Avoid giving long Answers that over-explain your side of the story. You should respond in one of three ways:

  • Admit: Like saying, This is true.
  • Deny: Like saying, Prove it.
  • Deny due to lack of knowledge: Like saying, I don't know.

Most attorneys recommend making a general denial, where you deny everything in the complaint and force the other side to prove everything. 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.

To assert affirmative defenses, you simply state reasons why the person suing you has no case. This is where you get to give your side of the story. Some of the most common affirmative defenses we see are:

  • 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, but you should list them in legal jargon. SoloSuit makes it easy to do this. Keep in mind, being unable to pay the debt is not normally a legal defense to the debt.

SoloSuit makes it easy to make the right defense.

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

Filing the Answer can be tricky. Courts have specific requirments for filing (i.e. original signature, certificate of service, etc.), and are notorious for rejecting Answers if they're not met. Here are some helpful hints for filing:

  • Print two copies of your Answer
  • Mail the original 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.

SoloSuit can file your Answer for you after an attorney reviews your documents.

Show up to the hearing

Sometimes the court will schedule a hearing after you respond to the lawsuit. Frequently, cases get dismissed just by filing an Answer, but sometimes a hearing is necessary. Attorneys do a good job representing people in court. You can even use SoloSuit to hire an attorney to show up for you in court. If you or your attorney doesn't show up for the hearing, you'll lose your case.

Hire an attorney to show up for you in court.

Avoid the hassle and awkwardness of showing up in court. Hire an attorney to do it for you.

Hire an Attorney

Hire an attorney to go to court for you.

You should investigate before you pay a collection agency

It is a common practice for debt collection agencies to purchase debts from credit card companies. If a debt collection agency has contacted you about a debt you owe, you should do some investigating before sending them any money.

Before making any payments to a collection agency, you should check the statute of limitations on the debt. The staute of limitations is the time period in which a creditor or collection agency can file a lawsuit to recover the debt, and it varies depending on which state you live in.

If you make a payment on a debt that is past the statute of limitations, the clock is restarted, and the collection agency will have the legal right to take you to court of the debt again. For this reason, you should make sure your debt is valid before making any sort of payments on it.

The Florida statute of limitations on debt can protect you

The statute of limitations on mosts debt, including credit card debt, is five years in Florida. This means that creditors and debt collectors only have five years to sue you over a debt, typically starting from the time you made your last payment on an account.

Note that they can still contact you in an attempt to recover the debt, and they may even sue you. It's up to you use the expired statute of limitations as an affirmative defense in your case. In other words, the judge and jury are not going to research the history of your debt for you. If the debt is past the statute of limitations, it's yyour responsibility to bring it up in court.

Also, keep in mind that processing any payment for a time-barred debt will restart the debt's Statute of Limitations. It is therefore critical to check your debt's Statute of Limitations before initiating any repayment programs.

The table below further outlines the statute of limitations on different types of debt in Florida:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Florida

Debt Type Deadline in Years
Credit Card 5 years
Medical 5 years
Student Loan 5 years
Auto Loan 5 years
Mortgage 5 years
Personal Loan 5 years
Judgment 20 years
Fla. Stat. § 95.11(2)

SoloSuit can help you use the statute of limitations as a defense in your debt case.

If the creditor sells your debt, you may not be obligated to pay

Under the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDPCA), debt collection agencies must validate a debt in writing within 5 days of contacting you about it. If they never validate the debt, you should send them a Debt Validation Letter before sending them any money. Many collection agencies give up after receiving such a letter, because it would cost them more time and resources to verify the debt.

If the collection agency cannot validate the debt, they must cease contact with you. In this case, you are not obligated to pay anything. Check out this article for more information on paying off your debt to a collections agency.

What if I haven't been sued yet?

If you've only received a collections notice, but not a lawsuit, the best way to respond is with a Debt Validation Letter. When a debt collector contacts you in any way, whether it's by phone or mail, you can respond with a Debt Validaiton Letter. This letter notifies the collector that you dispute the debt and requires they provide proof you owe the debt. They can't call you or continue collecting until they provide validation of the debt.

Learn more about the Debt Validation Letter here or by watching this video:

This flowchart shows how you can use a Debt Validation Letter to win.

How to win a debt collection lawsuit flowchart. Litigation Flowchart.

Takeaways on how to Answer a Summons for debt collection in Florida

So, in short, here's the review on how to answer a summons for debt collection in Florida.

  • Deadline: 20 days
  • Use Florida's Answer form

Follow these steps:

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

What is SoloSuit?

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

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 their attorney and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit and their services so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it Washington 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

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