March 17, 2022
Summary: Live in Texas and need help responding to a debt collection lawsuit? Use SoloSuit to fight back. We'll have an attorney review your document and file it for you.
“Nothing brings more joy to my heart than a fresh lawsuit delivered to my door nice and early in the morning.” — said no one ever.
Getting sued for a debt is hard. 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 Texas.
Below, you'll find helpful topics on how to answer a summons for debt collection in the Lone Star State. This list includes information specific to filing in Texas, like state deadlines and forms.
Table of Contents
A debt lawsuit begins when the plaintiff (the person suing) serves a court Summons and Complaint to the defendant (the person being sued). The Summons is the official document that notifies the defendant about a lawsuit. The Complaint outlines the specific claims, or allegations, against the defendant. Proper service is should be completed through one of the following way:
After you're served, the clock starts ticking on the deadline for you to respond before you lose by default. Here's a handy flowchart that outlines all the different paths a debt lawsuit might take:
Generally, you have 14-20 days to respond in Texas, depending on which type of court your case is in. If you fail to respond within the deadline, the plaintiff may file a default judgment against you. If the court approves it, this type of judgment gives the plaintiff the legal right to garnish your wages, seize your property, and put liens on your home or car. To avoid default judgment, you should respond to the Summons and Complaint ASAP.
Justice court deadline: The deadline to respond in justice court is 14 days from the day of service. If the 14th day falls on a weekend or holiday, the Answer is due by the very next day the court is open.
District court deadline: The deadline to respond in district court is a little bit more complicated. You should file your Answer by 10 am on the Monday after 20 days have passed since you were served.
For example, Freddy is served with a Summons and Complaint for his credit card debt on April 1, 2022. If his case is in the justice court, Freddy has until the end of the day on April 15, 2022 to respond. If his case is in the district court, Freddy has until 10 am on Monday, April 25th, to respond.
Texas doesn't have a statewide Answer form, but there are still several options available online to help you draft an Answer. You can also check with the court your case is in to see if they have a specific form for their court. Here are some great options for drafting an Answer:
There are three steps to respond to the Summons and Complaint:
Let's take a look at each step.
Answering the Complaint can be scary, but with these instructions it will be simple. Just read the complaint and then decide how you want to respond to each numbered paragraph. You can respond in one of three ways:
Generally, attorneys recommend denying all the claims in the Complaint. If a cliam is denied, the plaintiff has to prove that it's true. This takes more work, time, and resources on their part. In fact, many debt colletion agencies would rather dismiss the case than prove the allegations they're making.
Here are some official instructions to make your complaint in Texas. On the Texas Answer Form, you can make a general denial if you disagree with everything in the complaint; you can also make specific pleas, or request, assert affirmative defenses, and make a Request for Judgment.
To assert affirmative defenses, you simply state reasons why the person suing you has no case. Add the relevant defenses to your answer.
Here are some of the more common defenses we see:
These are a few of the many affirmative defenses. It's important to bring these defenses up in your intitial response, because once the case progresses, you won't be able to bring them up in court again. Keep in mind that being unable to pay the debt is not normally a legal defense to the debt.
After you've made your Answer, you need to file it into the case. Filing the Answer is sometimes harder than drafting it. Luckily, Texas accepts filing through mail or e-file, so it's a bit easier on the defendant.
If you choose to send your Answer document in the mail, follow these steps:
The address for the court and plaintiff's attorney should both be on the Summons document you received in the mail. The court's address is usually listed in the first two paragraphs. The attorney's address should be on the top left of the first page.
If you'd rather try filing your Answer electronically, use this site to acces the Texas e-file portal.
SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in Texas.
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.
"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
You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now or are just looking for support, we're here for you.
It's pretty common practice for creditors to sell debts to debt collection agencies. In fact, these agencies often purchase debts in bulk from credit card companies or banks for pennies on the dollar. This means that they may have purchased your debt for much less than the amount you actually owe, so they will make a huge profit if you pay it off to them. You should do some research before making any payments to a collection agency.
For example, Sally applied for a credit card with American Express back in 2017 and got accepted! Everything was great at first, but when Sally was laid off at work unexpectedly, she wasn't able to make payments on her card. After a few months of missing payments, she owed a total of $954.13 to American Express.
Fast forward 5 years years, and Sally is contacted by LVNV Funding LLC about the debt. She's never even heard of this company, but she learns that they are a huge debt collectin company that purchased her old debt from American Express for less than $200. LVNV Funding LLC proceeds to contact her over and over again, but she isn't sure if it's a scam. After a few weeks of ignoring their non-stop calls, Sally is served with a Summons and Complaint by LVNV Funding.
In this example, LVNV Funding would make a huge profit if Sally ended up paying the full debt they claim she owes. Since many collection agencies purchase debts for so cheap, they are usually willing to settle the debt for less than the original amount owed. So, a smart response for Sally would be to file an Answer to the lawsuit in court and reach out to LVNV Funding to work out a settlement plan. She might even be able to settle for less than 50% of the original amount (and LVNV Funding would still make a profit).
But, before negotiating a settlement, Sally should make sure the debt is actually valid (i.e. within the statute of limitations, correct amount, proper ownership is granted to LVNV Funding, etc.).
The statute of limitations is the time period in which a creditor or debt collector can initiate a lawsuit to collect a debt. The statue of limitations on debt is only 4 years in Texas. This means that if no activity (payment, acknowledging the debt, accepting a debt repayment plan, agreeing to a debt settlement amount, etc.) has occcurred on an account 4 or more years, the person who owes the debt on the account cannot be sued for it.
Back to Sally's story: Since Sally hasn't made any payments or changes on her account in 5 years, LVNV Funding LCC is legally prohibited from suing her. Sally should include this information in her Answer to the Summons and Complaint, and her case will be dismissed!
This example shows why it's so important to verify a debt before taking any action, If Sally had sent LVNV FUnding LLC a Debt Validation Letter before they took the matter to court, she could have avoided the lawsuit altogether. Most collection agencies give up after receiving a Debt Validation Letter, because it takes time and money to validate a debt—time and money they'd rather spend targeting someone else in debt.
Check out this video to learn more about how to draft a Debt Validation Letter in 2 steps:
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. This flowchart shows how you can use a Debt Validation Letter to win.
You can reach out to the creditor or debt collector to settle your debt at any point in the lawsuit. However, it's best practice to file your Answer with the court and serve the plaintiff's attorney first, then reach out about settling.
Some collectors can get pretty tricky. If you've worked out a settlement plan with them after they file a lawsuit against you, they might go behind your back and file a default judgment if you don't file your Answer. For this reason, it's best to negotiate a settlement after you've filed your Answer. Send them a Debt Lawsuit Settlement Letter, and settle your debt for less than you owe.
The lawsuit process is the same in small claims courts in Texas: the plaintiff will serve you with the Summons and Petition for debt, and you have to respond before the deadline to avoid default judgment. So, the first step to beating a debt collector in court is to file your Answer. You can also reach out to work out to the plaintiff's attorney to work out a settlement plan after you've responded to the lawsuit. Review the steps listed above to increase your chances of winning in court.
Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? We're making guides on how to beat each one.
Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.