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The Ultimate Guide to Responding to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Utah (2022)

George Simons | September 16, 2022

Debt collectors are like ^^

Summary: If you've been sued for a debt in Utah, you must respond within 21 days or you will lose by default. To respond, file a written Answer where you reply to each claim from the Complaint and assert your affirmative defenses. You can use SoloSuit to respond in just 15 minutes and win your lawsuit.

Getting sued for debt is just the worst. If the debt collector wins, they can garnish your wages or even gain access to your bank account to retrieve their money. Luckily, you can avoid this by responding to the lawsuit before the deadline to respond runs out.

This article will make the process easier and tell you what you need to know to respond to a debt lawsuit in Utah, keeping in mind the Utah debt collection laws.

Follow these steps to respond to a Utah debt collection case

You know you're being sued for a debt if you receive court documents in the mail (usually via certified mail) saying you're being sued for a debt. These documents are called the Summons and Complaint. The Summons and Complaint may also be served to you by a process server.

In a debt collection case, the Summons notifies you of the lawsuit and the parties—people or businesses—involved in the case. On the other hand, the Complaint lists the specific claims that are being made against you.

There is a deadline to respond to a debt lawsuit in Utah. Here's what Rule 12(a) of Utah Rules of Civil Procedure says about it:

Unless otherwise provided by statute or order of the court, a defendant must serve an answer within 21 days after the service of the summons and complaint is complete within the state and within 30 days after service of the summons and complaint is complete outside the state.

This is just a fancy way to say that you have 21 days from the time you receive the Summons and Complaint to file your Answer in Utah courts. You can respond with an Answer document or a Motion. Responding with an Answer is usually the best first step to take when you fight a debt lawsuit.

Follow these three steps to respond to a Summons and Complaint in Utah:

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

Let's take a look at each in detail. Don't like reading? Watch the video below instead:

1. Answer each claim listed in the Complaint document

Answering a Complaint may seem intimidating, but the process is really quite simple. All you have to do is read the Complaint carefully and decide how you want to respond to each numbered claim. The first section of your Answer should be a numbered list where you answer each claim from the Complaint in the same order.

You can respond to each claim with one of these three options:

  • 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 suggest that you deny as many claims in your Answer as possible. In a debt lawsuit, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, or the person suing. This means that, whenever you deny a claim, the plaintiff has to submit evidence to the court proving their claim. If they don't have the proper documentation to prove their case, they will most likely dismiss the case instead of continuing to pursue it.

Let's take a look at an example.

Example: Jason got sued by Chase Bank in Utah. In the lawsuit, Chase Bank claimed that Jason had a debt of $2,600, and that he had defaulted on the debt two years ago. After checking his records, Jason did have a debt with them, but the debt balance listed in the Complaint was incorrect. In his Answer document, Jason denies the majority of the allegations. When Chase Bank goes through their records again, they realize their claims are not provable, and they decide to dismiss the case.


2. Assert your affirmative defenses

After you've responded to each claim from the Complaint, you are ready for the next section of your Answer document, which is where you will assert your affirmative defenses.

An affirmative defense is any reason that the plaintiff should lose the case, even if their claims end up being true. Below are some common affirmative defenses for debt collection cases:

  • The account with the debt is not yours.
  • The contract was already canceled, meaning 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, Utah's statute of limitations sets the deadline for debt collection at six years. This means that you can't be sued for a debt based on an account that has been inactive for six years or more.
  • The debt was paid or excused.
  • The debt was partially paid.
  • You were a co-signer, but you were not informed of your rights as a co-signer.

These are examples of affirmative defenses acceptable by the courts. Notably, being unable to pay the debt is not a legal defense.

Here's an example of a consumer who used affirmative defenses to their advantage.

Example: Susan was sued for an old debt in Utah. The debt was so old that she didn't even remember it existed. When she looked most closely into the case, Susan realized that she had not made any payments on the account for more than eight years. She used SoloSuit to draft her Answer document, where she included the statute of limitations being passed as one of her affirmative defenses. The debt collector suing her didn't think she would be aware of laws like the statute of limitations. The court did sided with Susan, and she ended up winning the case.


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

After drafting your Answer with your responses and affirmative defenses, it's ready to be filed with the court. Surprisingly, many consumers find this step the hardest. If you don't have any attorney representing you in Utah, the courts require that you file the Answer by mail or in person. So, here's what you need to do:

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

The address for the plaintiff and court 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.

Beware of filing fees in Utah

Many courts charge a filing fee to respond to a debt collection lawsuit. If you're being sued in Utah, you're in luck. Utah does not charge any fees to file an Answer.

However, there may be other filing fees associated with debt lawsuit documents if you decide to enter any other legal actions into the case. For example, if you decide to file a counterclaim against the debt collector, there is a fee.

Click here to learn more about civil filing fees in Utah.

Debt collectors use dirty tricks

Debt collectors and the lawyers they hire sometimes use questionable tactics to ensure you lose your case.

Legalese: For example, lawyers use a language called legalese. This term means using complicated words like defendant, plaintiff, hereby, and herein to prevent the other party from understanding what they mean. Lawyers mostly use this language as an intimidation tactic. It isn't legally required to communicate this way.

There is a large movement pushing legal professionals to stop using legalese and communicate in plain English. But lawyers continue to use legalese to make it difficult for the average person to know what is happening in their lawsuit.

The best approach to deal with legalese is to search for the difficult legal terms on Google. Most of the words you don't recognize will probably come up with a “Law” or “Archaic” tag.

Serving you before filing with the courts: A second example of dirty tactics Utah collections may use is serving you before filing with the courts. This move is really sneaky. Some debt collectors in Utah will serve you first then file the case with the courts 10 days later. If they do this, your Summons and Complaint will not have a case number assigned yet, making it more difficult to find your case with the court and get more details.

According to Utah's Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 3(a), this isn't illegal. But it does make the process more tricky for the person being sued, especially when most people in this position don't know much about the legal system to begin with. When you call the court to ask for your case file, the clerk will ask for the case number. If you do not have a case number, the court can't help point you in the right direction.

Being aware of this rule can help prepare you. Wait 10 days after receiving the Summons and Complaint to ask the court for your case number. You can call the court or take a trip down to the courthouse. Once you have your case number, get your Answer filed as quickly as possible.

How to avoid a default judgment

In Utah, over 50 percent of all cases are for debt collection. This equals about 54,000 cases a year. So if you are being sued for a debt, you aren't alone. In about 90% of these 54,000 cases, the debtor automatically loses their case simply because they never filed an Answer. This is called losing by default judgment.

Consumers don't file an answer because they believe they need an attorney to file it and they can't afford one. Secondly, they believe the courts are difficult to navigate alone without legal experience.

These assumptions are not correct because SoloSuit has managed to serve over 60,000 consumers. None of these consumers had to hire a lawyer or go to the courts to deliver their Answer. They were able to represent themselves and take a stand in court.

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.

Utah collections agencies usually expect to win automatically because they know consumers do not understand the legal process for responding to a debt collection Utah lawsuit.

To increase your winning chances, use SoloSuit as a resource. You can participate in our services, or you can search our blog for relevant topics. We have helpful information to guide you through every step of your Utah lawsuit.

Gyms can sue you for not paying

A question we often receive is, can gyms send you to collections? Or can a gym sue you for not paying? Let's use an example to answer that question.

Example: Scott owes a year's worth of payments to a gym for a membership. The gym tries to collect those payments for another year, without any success. The gym sells that debt to a Utah collections debt collector. The debt collector sues Scott for the amount owed plus court costs and attorney fees, which equals about $500. If Scott doesn't respond in 21 days, he may owe up to $1500 plus interest.

To answer the earlier question, Yes, gyms can sue you for not paying and you may end up like Scott if you do not respond to the lawsuit with a written Answer.

Keep reading for other frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I sue my debt collector?

Yes. You can sue your debt collector or another party involved. Suing the creditor after they sue you is called a counterclaim. Suing another party involved in your current case is called a crossclaim. If you believe the creditor violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, be sure to state this in your counterclaim.

Can you settle a debt after being served?

Yes. Most people who use SoloSuit settle their debt after being sued. They'll have a pre-trial settlement conference or use mediation where they discuss the debt with the collector and come to an arrangement. Usually, the debtor can negotiate down the debt after filing an Answer. The two parties will decide on a stipulated payment plan, a legally enforceable document that lays out a payment schedule.

What do you do if a debt collector sues you?

If a debt collector sues you, respond to the lawsuit by filing an answer within 21 days of receiving the Summons and Complaint in Utah. You can use SoloSuitto draft and file your Answer.

How long can a creditor collect on a debt in Utah?

The statute of limitations on Utah debt varies depending on the case type, how you entered the debt, and its legal state. Generally, the debt collection law regarding the expiry date is as follows:

  • 4 years for credit card debt and spoken contracts
  • 6 years for written contracts
  • 8 years for federal and state judgments

What percentage do creditors usually settle for?

After filing an answer using SoloSuit, people are able to negotiate down their debt to around 30%-50% of the original debt. So, in negotiation, start low, around 15%, and adjust upwards. For instance, if you owe a debt of $1,000 and have already filed your Answer using SoloSuit, you can negotiate your payment down to as little as $300. Start the negotiation process by sending a Debt Lawsuit Settlement Letter.

Can Utah collections take you to court?

Yes, debt collectors can take you to court for a debt. Many consumers don't realize this until it is too late. They assume they can avoid paying a debt forever. But, the creditor has the right to sue you for the debt as long as it is within the statute of limitations.

What happens when you get a Summons for debt?

When you receive a Summons for a debt, it means you are being sued. Along with the Summons, you should receive a Complaint document. You need to respond to the Complaint by filing an Answer with the courts and serving an Answer to the plaintiff. You can do this with SoloSuit.

How do you respond to a debt lawsuit without a lawyer?

You can respond to a debt lawsuit without an attorney using your state court's website to find resources like templates that you can fill out to respond. Or you can use SoloSuit's drafted Answer and customize it to your case situation. Oftentimes, people are sued for a debt of less than $1000. Many attorneys require a $3000 retainer to get involved in a lawsuit. It doesn't make sense to pay an attorney $3000 for a $1000 debt.

You can save the money and stress of finding an attorney and represent yourself with SoloSuit's help.

What happens when someone sues you and you have no money?

If you're being sued for a debt and you have no money, you aren't totally off of the hook. If you lose the lawsuit, the debt will increase in size, because the creditor's attorney fees will be added to the debt. Also, the creditor can collect the debt for another 8 years. That means if you get an income in those 8 years, the creditor can garnish it. Additionally, the creditor can put a lien on your assets like a house or a car meaning if you sell the house or car, the money goes first to pay off the debt.

How many days do you have to respond to a lawsuit?

If you are being sued in Utah and you receive the lawsuit in the mail, you have 21 calendar days to respond if you were served the Summons and Complaint in Utah. If you are being sued in Utah and received the court documents outside of the state, you have 30 days to respond. This includes weekends and holidays. If you don't file a response within the deadline, you will most likely lose your case automatically.

What happens if you ignore a lawsuit?

Sadly, ignoring a debt lawsuit doesn't make it go away. It only makes it worse. Here's what will happen if you ignore a debt lawsuit:

  • Automatically lose your case: This is called default judgment and it occurs if you don't file within the 21–30 days allotted in Utah.
  • Owe attorneys fees: Even if you don't hire an attorney, when you lose your case you must pay the attorneys fees for the opposing party.
  • Garnished wages: When you lose, the opposing party will be allowed to garnish 25% of your paycheck. This means they take 25% out of every paycheck automatically.
  • Liens: The opposing party can put a lien on your property and you have to pay them first after selling your property or assets.

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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