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

Eva Bacevice | December 06, 2023

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Edited by Patrick Austin, J.D.

Summary: You have 30 days to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in South Carolina, and luckily, there is no fee to file an Answer to your case. Before you take any action with debt collectors, be sure to check the statute of limitations on your debt, which is three years in the state of South Carolina. You can use SoloSuit’s Answer form to respond to the suit, and SoloSuit will file the documents with the court on your behalf.

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 ignore your debt lawsuit, 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 respond to a South Carolina debt collection lawsuit, including deadline information, state forms, and filing fees specific to South Carolina.

(Don't like reading? Watch this video instead.)

You have 30 days to file your Answer in South Carolina

Each state has unique rules regarding the deadline to respond to a debt collection lawsuit. According to South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 12(a) states:

“A defendant shall serve his answer within 30 days after the service of the complaint upon him.”

In other words, the deadline to respond to a debt collection lawsuit is 30 days in South Carolina. The clock starts on the day you were served the Summons and Complaint documents.

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, plus courts costs and attorney fees. If a default judgment is granted, you will have missed the opportunity to contest the amount or any other allegations by failing to respond.

Fortunately, residents of the Palmetto State do not need to be concerned with having their wages garnished by a private debt collector. SC Code § 15-39-420 states that private debt collectors are prohibited from pursuing a wage garnishment order for consumer debt, such as unpaid credit card balances, medical debt, and so forth. However, there are some notable exceptions to this prohibition.

For example, wage garnishment is allowed if you owe money to the government (state or federal). In addition, wage garnishment is allowed if you owe money for unpaid child support or spousal support. Also, wage garnishment is allowed if a valid garnishment order was entered in another state where you previously resided there later relocated to the Palmetto State.

Even though private debt collectors cannot garnish your wages, they still retain the right to file a debt collection lawsuit against you and can obtain a valid, enforceable court judgment to collect on the debt. In many instances, rather than pursue wage garnishment, private debt collectors utilize other collection tactics, such as garnishment of non-wage income, writs of execution and liens.

Use these South Carolina Answer to Summons forms

You can use SoloSuit's Answer form to respond to the lawsuit; it works in magistrate court and other South Carolina courts. It's drafted by professional litigation attorneys and has protected over $100 million for consumers like you.

If you want to do it on your own, and your case is in Magistrate court, you can use court form SCCA/703 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.

South Carolina courts do not charge an Answer filing fee

Luckily for you, there is no fee to file an Answer in South Carolina. That being said, there are fees for filing other court documents in South Carolina. The fee schedules below outline the South Carolina court filing fees:

SoloSuit calculates the filing fees for you.

Use these steps to respond to a debt collection case in South Carolina

A South Carolina debt lawsuit is initiated when the plaintiff (the person or company suing) files a Summons and Complaint in court and serves you with copies of the documents. The Summons is the official notification of the lawsuit, while the Complaint lists the specific claims against you.

As we discussed above, the deadline to file a response in a South Carolina debt collection lawsuit is 30 days. It's very important to file your Answer 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 served. Usually, the plaintiff must file a certificate of service, notifying the court that the documents were properly served and the defendant (in this case, you) have been notified of the case.

The flowchart below illustrates the general timeline of a debt collection lawsuit and ways you can win:

Debt Collection Lawsuit Flowchart

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.

Follow these three steps to respond to a South Carolina debt collection lawsuit:

  1. Answer each issue of the Complaint.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File the Answer document with the court, and serve the plaintiff with a copy.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these steps. Alternatively, you can watch this video to learn more:

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

  1. Admit: in other words, “This is true.”
  2. Deny: in other words, “Prove it.”
  3. Deny due to lack of knowledge: in other words, “I don’t know.”

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.

Most attorneys recommend that you deny as many claims as possible, but it won't hurt your case to admit to facts that are true, such as your name or address.

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 “deny due to lack of knowledge” if it is something that you can't independently verify, such as specific information about the debt collection company who is suing you.

Let’s consider an example.

Example: Frank is being sued by Midland Credit Management for a debt he doesn’t recognize. He uses SoloSuit to respond to the case, and he denies all of the claims regarding the supposed debt that are listed in the Complaint document. Doing so forces Midland Credit Management to prove their side of the case. After some digging through documents, the debt collection agency realizes it doesn’t have enough evidence to prove its claims and dismisses the case voluntarily. Turns out, they were trying to sue Frank for a debt he didn’t actually owe.

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.

SoloSuit makes it simple to respond the right way.

2. Assert affirmative defenses

This next step is where you get to fight back by asserting your affirmative defenses. Affirmative defenses are any reason 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), which states:

(c) Affirmative Defenses; Reply. In pleading to a preceding pleading, a party shall set forth affirmatively the defenses: accord and satisfaction, arbitration and award, assumption of risk, condonation, contributory negligence, discharge in bankruptcy, duress, fraud, illegality, injury by fellow servant, laches, license, misrepresentation, mistake, payment, plene administravit or the administration of the estate is closed, recrimination, release, res judicata, statute of frauds, statute of limitations, waiver, and any other matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense. When a party has mistakenly designated a defense as a counterclaim or a counterclaim as a defense, the court shall treat the pleading as if there had been a proper designation. A party may file a reply to any of the foregoing affirmative defenses.”

You can assert any and every one of these affirmative defenses that applies to your case. 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.

Let’s take a look at another example.

Example: Jenny is being sued for a credit card debt in South Carolina. The debt collection agency that is suing her purchased the debt of $450 from her original creditor for a sliver of the original amount. After some investigating, Jenny realizes that she hasn’t been active on that account for more than four years. Since the statute of limitations on credit card debt is three years in South Carolina, Jenny decides to fight back. She uses SoloSuit to draft and file her Answer where she uses the expired statute of limitations as one of her affirmative defenses. After a few weeks, the court rules in Jenny’s favor, and the case gets dismissed.

Make the right affirmative defense the right way with SoloSuit.

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.

3. File the Answer with the court and serve the plaintiff with a copy

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 can file your Answer for you in all 50 states.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.

You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

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

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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, that judgment is valid for 10 years.

In other words, debt collectors have three years from the last activity on your debt account to take you to court. If they do not file the debt lawsuit within the three-year statute of limitations, the case is invalid, and you can use this as a defense in your Answer.

The table below further outlines the South Carolina statutes of limitations on debt and its different types:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in South Carolina

Debt Type Deadline
Credit card 3 years
Medical 3 years
Student loan 3 years
Auto loan 3 years
Personal loan 3 years
Oral contract 3 years
Judgment 10 years
Mortgage 20 years
Source: SC Code § 15-3-520, § 15-3-530, and Hardee v. Lynch

South Carolina legal aid organizations can assist you

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 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 respond to a Summons for debt collection in South Carolina.

  • You have 30 days to file an Answer to your debt lawsuit in South Carolina.
  • South Carolina courts do not charge a filing fee.
  • Use the SoloSuit Answer form to draft and file your response in minutes.
  • In your Answer document, respond to each claim against you and assert your affirmative defenses.
  • File the Answer with the court, and send a copy to the opposing party.
  • The South Carolina statute of limitations on debt is three years.

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