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

Hannah Locklear | December 06, 2023

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: If you're being sued for debt in West Virginia, you have 20 days to respond with a written Answer. In your Answer, you should respond to each claim against you and assert your affirmative defenses. Then, be sure to file the document with the court and send a copy to the opposing attorney. SoloSuit can help you with all these steps and more.

It's fair to say that life today is already pretty stressful. Finding out that you're being sued for debt collection may feel like more than you can handle on top of everything else.

If you're already struggling to make ends meet, chances are there isn't any extra money available to hire an attorney. It can be intimidating to think about responding on your own and all too tempting to just ignore it altogether. Ignoring it, however, won't make it go away. All that does is guarantee that you will lose the case.

Responding to a debt collection lawsuit in West Virginia on your own doesn't have to be scary or overwhelming. In this article, we will walk you through the process and hopefully make it a little easier. This article will include information specific to West Virginia, including state-specific deadlines, forms, and laws.

Table of Contents

Respond to the lawsuit before the West Virginia deadline

You have 20 days to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in West Virginia. The clock starts on this legal action as of the filing date on the Summons and Complaint that you receive. It's your responsibility to respond to the lawsuit before the deadline.

Need more assurance? Here's what the law specifically states, as outlined in West Virginia's Rules of Civil of Procedure Rule 12(a)(1):

"A defendant shall serve an answer within 20 days after the service of the summons, unless before the expiration of that period the defendant files with the court and serves on the plaintiff a notice that the defendant has a bona fide defense, and then an answer shall be served within 30 days after the defendant was served."

A debt collection lawsuit begins when the plaintiff (the party trying to collect the debt) files and serves a Summons and Complaint against the defendant (the person being sued.) In most debt collection lawsuits, the plaintiff is your creditor or a third-party debt collection company who purchased the debt from your original creditor, like NCC debt collection. If you’re being sued for debt, you are the defendant in the case.

It is very important to make sure that your response is filed in the Court before this deadline expires. If you fail to respond before the deadline, the plaintiff will ask the Court for a default judgment.

With a default judgment, creditors and debt collectors are entitled to use legal methods to collect the debt from you. This means you've lost your opportunity to refute any of the allegations they claimed against you (such as the amount of the debt or the opportunity to agree to a payment plan) and that they can use this court order to garnish your wages.

With a wage-order garnishment they can take money out of your paycheck before you even see it. A garnishment can also allow debt collection from your West Virginia state tax return, either instead of or in addition to your paycheck. Chances are high that this will result in a worse financial situation than where you started.

Obviously we want to avoid this scenario. The single best thing you can do to protect yourself in a debt collection lawsuit is to make certain that you file a response before the 20-day deadline expires. In this article, we will walk you through exactly how to do it.

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West Virginia Answer to Summons Forms

You can use the SoloSuit Answer form to respond to your West Virginia debt collection lawsuit. After you answer a few online questions about your situation, SoloSuit’s software translates your answers into the proper legalese and format to file with the court on your behalf.

Alternatively, you can use the Magistrate Court Answer form if you prefer to fill out your Answer alone and your case is in Magistrate Court. The Magistrate Court has jurisdiction over civil cases like debt collection where the financial amount in dispute is less than ten-thousand dollars. If the debt exceeds ten-thousand dollars, your case will be filed in Circuit Court. The West Virginia Circuit Court, unfortunately, does not offer an online form, so you will need to draft and format your own response according to local court rules, which we will go over below.

Luckily, as the defendant, figuring out which court is appropriate for your case isn't something that you need to determine. That responsibility is on the filing party, the plaintiff. This means that, in terms of your response, you can simply rely on the court information already listed in your Summons and Complaint.

Answer filing fees for West Virginia

Good news! West Virginia courts do not charge a fee to file an Answer to a debt lawsuit. That being said, there may be fees to file other types of documents of legal actions into a case. You can check for other court filing fees here: West Virginia Court Fees.

Use these steps to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in West Virginia

As discussed above, a West Virginia debt collection lawsuit begins when the plaintiff files a Summons and Complaint against you. As the defendant, you must respond to the lawsuit before the deadline, which is 20 days in West Virginia.

To respond to your debt lawsuit in West Virginia, you need to file a written Answer. Follow these three steps:

  1. Answer each issue listed in the Complaint.
  2. Assert affirmative defenses.
  3. File your Answer with the court, and send a copy to the plaintiff’s attorney.

We will go over each step in the process in detail below. You can also check out this video to learn more:

1. Answer each issue listed in the Complaint

The Complaint document lists the specific allegations against you. To properly answer the Complaint, you need to address each and every separate issue listed in corresponding order.

If your case is in Magistrate Court you can continue with the online form. The online Answer form provided by the West Virginia Court system consolidates your responses into one of three check-boxes; admitting the matters set forth in the complaint, denying the matters set forth in the complaint, or admitting in part and denying in part the matters set forth in the complaint. It's most likely that you would check the third box, as some information, if correct, can be admitted to easily (like name or account number) and other allegations (such as the amount of the debt) may be contested.

If your case is in Circuit Court you will need to draft your own Answer to respond to each numbered paragraph in the Complaint separately. You should respond to each paragraph in one of the following three ways:

  • Admit
  • Deny
  • Deny due to lack of knowledge

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond the right way.

You should be certain that your responses are numbered the same as the allegations against you, for easy reference. The third response is appropriate for matters you cannot independently verify, such as incorporation information about the plaintiff's company.

2. Assert affirmative defenses

In your Answer you can also assert any relevant affirmative defenses. An affirmative defense is any reason that you can state which shows that the plaintiff doesn't have a case. Feel free to include each and every affirmative defense that applies to your situation.

If you are using the online form you can check the box next to “raising defense(s) explained below” and use the additional space to flesh out your defense. If you are in Circuit Court you can set for all affirmative defenses following your responses to the allegations in the Complaint.

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

Some of the more common affirmative defenses are briefly discussed below, but this is not an exhaustive list.

  • Payment: If you can prove that you already paid the debt then that should end the lawsuit immediately.
  • Accord and satisfaction: If you came to an agreement with the creditor to pay a lesser amount to satisfy the debt in full satisfaction, they, or an entity on their behalf cannot continue to try to collect. Here you can reference and attach any supporting documentation such as bank records showing a cashed check or online payment, or any correspondence between you and the creditor regarding a lower payment.
  • The debt was already discharged in a bankruptcy. If you have an order of discharge from a previous bankruptcy which included this debt, then the plaintiff cannot try to collect it through the Court.
  • Statute of limitations has expired. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline for legal action. We will discuss the West Virginia statute of limitations on debt collection in more detail later in this article.

Beyond affirmative defenses you can also assert counterclaims against the plaintiff. There is a section for this in the online form as well. This is most appropriate if they are violating West Virginia debt collection laws. West Virginia follows the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and goes beyond it with its own fair debt collections practices act in West Virginia, called the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (WVCCPA.)

The WVCCPA allows consumers to make the debt collector pay for their reasonable attorney fees and court costs, and could even force criminal charges for willful violation. Please keep in mind that credit harassment allegations can get very complicated and would be best handled by an attorney. Additionally (or alternatively) you can take the opportunity to file a complaint against a debt collection company here with the West Virginia Attorney General complaint form.

3. File your Answer with the court, and send a copy to the plaintiff’s attorney

Your final step is to print out and file your response with the Court. Make sure to file your Answer with the Court within the 20 day timeframe.

Here's all you need to do to file your answer.

  • Print at least two copies of your Answer
  • Mail one copy to the court
  • Mail the other copy to the plaintiff's attorney

SoloSuit files for you.

If possible, print an extra copy for your own records. If you're using the Magistrate Court's online form make sure to fill out the “Certificate of Service” portion at the end of the form.

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.)

Statute of Limitations on Debt in West Virginia

The statute of limitations sets a deadline for debt collectors to sue over a debt. Each state has different statutes, but in West Virginia, the statute of limitations on debt is ten years, generally. More specifically, W.V. Code § 55-2-6 states:

"Every action to recover money, which is founded upon an award, or on any contract other than a judgment or recognizance, shall be brought within the following number of years next after the right to bring the same shall have accrued, that is to say: If the case be upon an indemnifying bond taken under any statute, or upon a bond of an executor, administrator or guardian, curator, committee, sheriff or deputy sheriff, clerk or deputy clerk, or any other fiduciary or public officer, within ten years; if it be upon any other contract in writing under seal, within ten years; if it be upon an award, or upon a contract in writing, signed by the party to be charged thereby, or by his agent, but not under seal, within ten years; and if it be upon any other contract, express or implied, within five years, unless it be an action by one party against his copartner for a settlement of the partnership accounts, or upon accounts concerning the trade or merchandise between merchant and merchant, their factors or servants, where the action of account would lie, in either of which cases the action may be brought until the expiration of five years from a cessation of the dealings in which they are interested together, but not after."

In other words, the West Virginia statute of limitations on debt is ten years. This means that statute of limitations on credit card debt, mortgage debt, student loan debt, etc. is ten years in West Virginia. Express or implied contracts, however, have a statute of limitations of five years in West Virginia

Once the applicable period has passed in the West Virginia statute of limitations on debt collection the creditor can no longer pursue collection efforts against you through the legal system. The table below further outlines the statute of limitations on different types of debt in West Virginia.

Statute of Limitations on Debt in West Virginia

Debt Type Deadline
Oral contract 5 years
Open contract 5 years
Auto Loan 10 years
Mortgage 10 years
Written contract 10 years
Credit card 10 years
Medical 10 years
Judgment 10 years

All states have legal aid organizations, some of which are government-funded, to assist residents who cannot otherwise afford legal assistance. There are links below to some of these organizations in West Virginia:

West Virginia Court Locations

Need help finding your courthouse? Use this map of West Virginia Court Locations to find your court's address, clerk information, and more. Just click on your county of residence.

Key Takeaways

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

Make certain you know the deadline and complete the process before it expires. West Virginia debt collection regulations allow 20 days to file your response.

Make certain you are using the proper West Virginia Answer form/format, or, to draft your response. When you fill out the form complete the following three steps:

  1. Answer each issue 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.

Good Luck!

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Not sued yet?

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