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

Eva Bacevice | December 06, 2023

Eva Bacevice
Eva Bacevice, JD

Eva Bacevice is a licensed attorney and Academic Advisor for the BBA program at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Before her role in higher education, Eva practiced law for close to a decade, specializing in consumer bankruptcy after earning a Juris Doctor at the University of Michigan Law School.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: You have 30 days to respond to a debt lawsuit in Tennessee before you run the risk of losing automatically by default judgment. To respond, you should file an Answer document into the case where you address each issue from the Complaint and assert your affirmative defenses. SoloSuit can help you draft and file a Tennessee Answer in minutes.

Debt collectors got you down?

Dealing with these collectors can be stressful, and being sued for a debt can be even worse. Plus, when you're already struggling to make ends meet, the thought of hiring a lawyer can seem unrealistic. After all, if you had the money for that, you probably would have paid off your debt in the first place, right?

But don't worry, you don't have to go through this alone. In Tennessee, there are laws in place to protect you. In this article, we'll go over the process of responding to a debt lawsuit and answering a Summons for debt collection in Tennessee. We’ll cover state-specific requirements, like the deadline, forms, laws, and more.

So, without further ado, let's break down how to respond to a debt lawsuit in Tennessee.

Table of Contents

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Respond to your Tennesee debt lawsuit before the deadline

You have 30 days to respond to a Summons for debt collection in Tennessee.

A debt lawsuit begins when the plaintiff (a creditor or debt collector) files the case in court and serves you with the court documents known as the Summons and Complaint. The Summons notifies you of the lawsuit and the case details, and the Complaint lists the specific claims against you.

According to Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 12.01:

"A defendant shall serve an answer within thirty (30) days after the service of the summons and complaint upon him. A party served with a pleading stating a cross-claim against such party shall serve an answer thereto within thirty (30) days after the service upon him or her."

This means that you have 30 days to file your Answer in court. If you don't file your response before the Tennessee deadline, the plaintiff will most likely request a default judgment against you. If granted by the court, a default judgment grants certain rights to the plaintiff, including the right to garnish wages, put liens on properties, and even freeze bank accounts.

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to your debt lawsuit before the deadline. Keep reading to learn more.

Use Tennessee Answer forms to respond to your case

SoloSuit’s Answer form is the easiest way to respond to your Tennessee debt lawsuit. All you have to do is respond to a few questions about your case online, and SoloSuit’s software drafts an Answer for you. This form includes the proper legal wording and formatting so you can present the strongest case.

Otherwise, you can draft an Answer on your own. To do so, you should follow the steps listed below. But whether you're a DIY type or prefer to leave it to the pros, don't ignore that lawsuit. Be sure to respond before the TN deadline and fight your case.

Follow these three steps to respond to your debt lawsuit in Tennessee

As we already mentioned, when you're sued for debt, you'll receive two documents - the Summons and Complaint. The Summons kicks off the lawsuit and the Complaint lays out the creditor's argument against you. You've got 30 days to respond, or else you lose by default (and nobody likes to lose).

Follow these three steps to respond to your Summons and Complaint in Tennessee:

  1. Address each claim listed in the Complaint.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File the Answer with the court and serve the plaintiff.

Below, we’ll break down each of these steps in detail.

Now, I know what you're thinking - "ugh, this all sounds like a lot of work." And you're not wrong! But luckily, there are some tools out there to help you out. SoloSuit is one of them. Our software can help you draft and file an Answer in a matter of minutes. Watch this video to learn more about the three steps above and how SoloSuit can help:

1. Address each claim listed in the Complaint.

Responding to a Complaint isn't as hard as it might seem.

The Complaint will lay out each issue in a numbered paragraph. You can respond with "agree," "disagree," or "I don't know." Don't forget to match each response with the corresponding paragraph number.

Many lawyers suggest using a general denial because it shifts the burden of proof to the filing party. If the information is accurate, choose "agree." For example, you could admit to your identity and the fact that you owe the debt. Remember, you don't need to deny every claim to win. Next, deny any false assertions, such as the debt amount or whether you owe it at all.

Just make sure to respond within 30 days under Tennessee law, or you'll risk losing by default. Nobody wants that - except maybe your opponent.

Start your Answer with the help of SoloSuit.

2. Assert your affirmative defenses

Once you've addressed each claim against you, it's time to tell your side of the story. You can do this by asserting your affirmative defenses.

An affirmative defense is any legal reason or justification for your actions that proves you should not be held liable for the debt. Here are some typical defenses you can use to fight back:

  • You don't owe the debt. It's possible that the debt is not yours or that someone stole your identity.
  • You've already paid off the debt. Maybe you've already settled the account, or perhaps there was a prior agreement to pay less than the total amount.
  • You disagree with the amount of the debt. The amount they're claiming may include excessive late fees or other charges.
  • The debt has been discharged in bankruptcy. If your debt was included in a bankruptcy that received a discharge, you are no longer obligated to pay it.
  • The plaintiff hasn't proven they hold the debt. It's not uncommon for debts to be sold to third-party collection agencies that don't have the proper documentation.
  • The statute of limitations has expired. Tennessee law sets the deadline at 6 years to sue for a debt based on a contract from six years ago.
  • These are just a few examples of affirmative defenses. Remember, you can attach any supporting documentation as evidence for your claims. It's important to note that inability to pay the debt is not a legal defense.

Make the right defense the right way with SoloSuit.

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

Filing your Answer with the court and serving the plaintiff is the final step in responding to a debt collection lawsuit, but it's just as important as every other step you've taken so far. Luckily, SoloSuit can handle this step for you, so you can focus on more important things, like working out a debt settlement offer.

To file and serve your Answer, you'll need to complete a few easy steps:

  1. Print at least two copies of your Answer, but make it three so you can keep one for yourself. If you don't have access to a printer, try your local public library or office supply store. SoloSuit can also print and mail it for you, so you don't have to leave the house!
  2. Mail one copy of your Answer to the court at the address listed on the Summons and Complaint.
  3. Mail a second copy to the plaintiff's attorney, whose address is also listed on the Summons and Complaint.
  4. Finally, gather all the supporting documents for your Answer and bring them to your court hearing.

Now that you've filed and served your Answer, all that's left to do is wait to hear back from the court about a possible hearing or the plaintiff, if they decide to take further action.

Now, let's explore an example of how to resolve a debt lawsuit in Tennesse.

Example: Tiffany is being sued by LVNV Funding in Tennessee for an old credit card debt of $1,000. She uses SoloSuit to draft and file an Answer into the case before the 30-day Tennessee deadline is up. When LVNV Funding's lawyer receives Tiffany's Answer, they realize that their numbers were off and they don't have proof to many of the claims they made when they initiated the case. They determine that it isn't worth it to pursue the debt any further, and they file a motion to dismiss.

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.

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

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit. (We can help you in all 50 states.)

Check the Tennessee statute of limitations on debt

In Tennessee, the statute of limitations for debt collection is six years, as outlined by Tenn. Code § 28-3-109. This means that creditors and debt collectors only have six years from the date of last payment or activity on an account to sue debtors for outstanding debt in Tennessee. It also means that the Tennessee statute of limitations on credit card debt is just six years too.

The table below further illustrates the statute of limitations on different types of debt in Tennessee:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Tennessee

Debt Type Deadline
Credit Card 6 years
Medical/td> 6 years
Auto Loan 6 years
Student Loan 6 years
Mortgage 6 years
Personal Loan 6 years
Judgment 10 years
Tenn. Code § 28-3-109 and § 28-3-110

So, if you're feeling a bit nostalgic for the days when you had less debt, make sure to keep track of the last time you made a payment or had any account activity. And if a debt collector comes knocking after six years have passed, don't be afraid to use the Tennessee statute of limitations defense to keep them at bay!

Use the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense.

Be careful not to make any payments on a debt until you know it is within the statute of limitations in your state. Doing so will reset the clock, and you might find yourself in court when you could have otherwise avoided it.

Settle your debt before going to court

Maybe you know that you owe the debt. If this is the case, you might be wondering if debt settlement is a good option for you.

If you’ve been sued for debt, you can reach out to your creditors or debt collectors at any stage of the lawsuit to discuss debt settlement. Debt settlement is the process by which a consumer, like you, settles an outstanding debt for an amount that is less than the full amount owed.

SoloSettle, powered by SoloSuit, makes the debt settlement process simple.

As a tech-based approach to debt settlement, SoloSettle’s software can help you send and receive settlement offers until an agreement is reached. Then, it helps manage your documentation of the settlement and transfers your payment to the creditor or debt collector, keeping your financial information private and secure.

To learn more about how SoloSettle can help you settle your debt for good, watch this video:

Tennessee has numerous government-funded organizations that offer free legal services to individuals who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. These organizations can provide assistance with debt collection cases or connect you with a local lawyer who can help. Below is a list of Tennessee legal aid organizations that may be able to assist you with your civil case:

So, if you're feeling overwhelmed by debt and can't afford a lawyer, don't panic! Help is available, and these organizations exist to support you.

Key Takeaways

So, in short, here's the review on how to respond to a Summons for debt collection in Tennessee.

Tennessee's deadline to respond to a debt collection lawsuit is 30 days. SoloSuit’s Answer form makes responding before the deadline simple.

Make certain you are using the proper legal formatting and wording in your Answer document. When you write up your Answer, complete the following three steps:

  1. Address each claim listed in the Complaint.
  2. Assert any and all of your affirmative defenses.
  3. File and serve the Answer with the Court and the plaintiff's attorney.

If you know you owe the debt, and you have enough money to settle a portion of it right away, use SoloSettle to send and receive settlement offers until you reach an agreement with your creditor.

Good Luck!

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Not sued yet?

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Out Debt Validation Letter is the best way to respond to a collection letter. Many debt collectors will simply give up after receiving it.

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