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How to Beat a Debt Collector in Court

Chloe Meltzer | January 10, 2024

Legal Expert
Chloe Meltzer, MA

Chloe Meltzer is an experienced content writer specializing in legal content creation. She holds a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University, complemented by a Master’s in Marketing from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.

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: Is a debt collector suing you for a past due balance? Find out how you can make the right defense and beat a debt collector in court.

Millions of Americans are finding themselves in debt each year. This debt leads to calls, mail, and lawsuits from debt collectors. Generally, these are not things that people want to deal with, but they are unfortunately more common than you might think.

In many cases, debt collectors will use fear and intimidation to force you into paying your debt. They will serve you with a lawsuit, threaten your income as well as bank accounts and any assets you own. You cannot just ignore the issue and hope it goes away.

The best action to take is to take the steps to legally defend yourself, and know your rights. Then you can move forward with whatever courts of action you choose. This is how to beat a debt collector in court.

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Respond promptly to the lawsuit

In many cases, borrowers will not respond and try to ignore the debt collection lawsuit. This is the worst idea you could have because it will mean a default judgment will be placed against you. This essentially means you lose the lawsuit before you even begin. This is how wage garnishment occurs. They will also be able to take money directly from your bank account to pay themselves and can add on lawyer fees, court costs, or interest to the overall balance. This is why you must respond.

Once you are being sued for a debt, you can no longer respond through the phone. You will need to send in a legal Answer. In this Answer, you should not admit any liability for the debt. Instead, force the debt collector to prove your debt. You will also need to file this Answer with the Clerk of Court, get it stamped, and send that stamped copy to the lawyer of the debt collector you are being sued by.

Your answer needs to be sent back within the allotted time on the lawsuit. If you miss this deadline it will be considered a non-response. The deadline to respond to a debt collection lawsuit is 14-35 days, depending on which state the case is in. Additionally, once a judgment is entered, you may lose your chance to dispute the debt anymore.

Use SoloSuit to make the right defense and win in court.

Challenge the debt collector's right to sue

One of the best ways to win a debt lawsuit is to challenge the debt collector's right to sue you. This is because most often once a debt collection lawsuit has reached this point it has typically be sold a few times. This means that the debt collector may not be able to prove that you owe the debt.

If you do not respond you lose this chance because judges won't go out of their way to seek this information. Instead, ask for documentation of your debt in writing. If they cannot provide one of the following, your case may be dropped.

The plaintiff must provide either a credit agreement signed by you or documentation that they own your debt and that you legally owe it.

Bring up the burden of proof

The burden of proof rests with the debt collector who is suing you. This means they will be required to prove the following:

  • Legally they own the debt and can sue you
  • You are responsible for the debt
  • How much you specifically owe

Methods of proving this include:

  • Showing that the balance was increased when you made purchases.
  • Proof of the balance increasing due to fees that were in the original credit agreement.
  • That the balance is accurate.

In many cases, this is not possible for the debt collector to prove because they do not have the proper documentation. This can lead to dismissal of your lawsuit, or a settlement at a much lower amount.

Make creditors prove their case with SoloSuit.

Review the statute of limitations

The statute of limitations is a set of laws that governs how long you may be sued for a debt. In many states, this ranges from four to six years, so you will need to look into the length for your state. It is important to note that the last day you were active on the account is the day that the statute timing begins.

This might include drawing funds from the account, making a payment, using a credit card, no matter how small or large the amount. This is why you need to be very careful about being pushed to make a payment on your account.

Many debt collectors will look into old debts and attempt to restart the timeline to pursue a lawsuit. They may ask you to pay even just $5. Do not do this. If the statute of limitations has expired you can no longer be sued for the debt, but you will still owe it. Typically this gives you enough time to get together the funds without facing wage garnishment, but it will continue to ruin your credit.

Don't let debt collectors use shady tactics. File a response with SoloSuit.

File a countersuit

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers from unfair debt collection practices. If a debt collector violates this act, they will not only need to pay your legal fees but also may need to pay you compensation for damages.

Violations of the FDCPA include using any form of harassment, abusive language, profanity, or calling at odd hours. They may also not speak to anyone about your debt other than your spouse and attorney, and cannot call you at work once you tell them that it is not allowed. If they break any of these rules they are subject to a countersuit.

Decide if it's time to file bankruptcy

The last thing you ever want to do is file bankruptcy, but if you owe a debt, cannot pay it, and are also experiencing other financial distress, then bankruptcy might be the right option. Filing a petition of bankruptcy means you will no longer need to pay those debts. It will be wiped clean and you will have a blank slate. Despite this, it will have serious consequences on your credit report, and you should be aware that this will follow you for the rest of your life.

Use these 6 tips to draft an Answer and win

Now that you've learned how to beat a debt collector in court, let's discuss the best ways to draft an Answer that will actually stand in court. The following 6 tips have been proven to increase your chances of winning in court, regardless of which state you're in. Use these 6 tips to make your Answer and beat debt collectors in court!

  1. Keep your Answer brief
  2. Deny as many claims as possible
  3. Add your affirmative defenses
  4. Use standard formatting and style
  5. Include a certificate of service
  6. Sign the Answer document

Now, let's break down each tip in detail. Don't like reading? Check out this video where SoloSuit's CEO, George Simons, explains each of the 6 tips for drafting a winning Answer to a debt collection lawsuit:

1. Keep your Answer brief

At this stage in the lawsuit, you should avoid giving too much information about your side of the story. Giving an elaborate description of your experience with the debt collector can actually end up hurting your case. For this reason, your Answer should focus on responding to each claim listed in the Complaint document.

2. Deny as many claims as possible

Most attorneys advise you to deny as many of the claims as possible. This means, an Answer document that will be more likely to win will have a numbered list of responses that deny each claim from the Complaint. There may be some claims that are obviously true (for example, it may list your name or home address as one of the claims), and it's not a big deal to admit to those types of claims. But you will strengthen your case when you deny the debt collectors claims, because they must prove anything that is denied.

3. Add your affirmative defenses

After you've responded to each claim, you should include a section for your affirmative defenses. This is any legal reason that the debt collector doesn't have a case against you. For example, a common and effective affirmative defense is to bring up that the debt is past the statute of limitations, like we mentioned earlier in this article. SoloSuit can help you come up with a list of affirmative defenses, written in proper legal writing, and strengthen your side of the case.

4. Use standard formatting and style

Your Answer needs to be neat and professional. You should use standard font and margins (12pt, Arial, etc.). You should also include a caption at the beginning of the Answer document that outlines the case number, venue (court), and parties information. SoloSuit's Answer form includes clean formatting and a caption.

5. Include a certificate of service

Some courts require you to include proof that you served the opposing party. This is often called a certificate of service, and it should be found at the end of the document. This is where you list the name and address of the party to whom you sent a copy of your Answer. SoloSuit's Answer form also includes a certificate of service.

6. Sign the Answer document

Don't forget to sign your Answer! Most courts reject any Answer documents that do not include a signature, so while this may seem like a simple step, it is often the most important!

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

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.

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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