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How to Defend Yourself in Court

Chloe Meltzer | December 02, 2022

Summary: Is a debt collector suing you for a past due balance? Here's how to defend youself in court.

If you are being charged with a crime then typically it is not a good plan to defend yourself in court. Despite this, there are exceptions, and a debt case is one of them. If you believe that you are innocent and do not need a lawyer, or you simply cannot afford one, then you need to look into building the best defense possible.

When it comes to being behind on paying debts a creditor is legally allowed to sue you after a certain amount of notice. Should you go to court and then lose, a court judgment will be placed against you. This can lead to wage garnishment or liens on your property. To avoid this, you need to understand how to defend yourself and the basic laws that are involved in these types of lawsuits. This is how to defend yourself in court in a debt lawsuit.

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1. Respond to the lawsuit

The first step in fighting a lawsuit is responding to it. the lawsuit will come as a summons and complaint, and you need to read it thoroughly. This is notifying you that you are being sued, and will let you know when you are expected to appear in court. The summons will also tell you how much time you have to respond to the lawsuit.

2. Gather the paperwork

The next step is to gather any relevant paperwork. You should have a copy of whatever contract you originally signed that put you into debt in the first place. You should also find evidence of what debt you have already paid, including canceled checks or a monthly summary of your account statement.

If you have been sued for not paying on an auto loan then you need to have every copy of any notice that was sent to the lender. If your car was repossessed, then the lender should have given you notices before they take it. Try to find errors in this paperwork if you believe they exist.

3. Look into the statute of limitations

You must check if the statute of limitations has passed. This is one of the best ways you can defend yourself from creditors. Essentially the statute of limitations is the time limit, set by a state, for how long a creditor is legally allowed to sue you. You should look into how much time has passed since you last made a payment. Count how much time has passed from the last payment you made. This is essential because this is how you will know if your debt is time-barred.

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4. Find an affirmative defense

There are various defenses that you can raise when it comes to a debt collection lawsuit. For example, you can argue that the creditor did not follow proper procedures. If the service of the complaint was not done in the proper method. Creditors must serve you in person, or leave it with someone in your home, but this varies from state to state. If they improperly serve you, then you can bring this up in court as an affirmative defense.

You can also find errors within the complaint. For example:

  • You did not incur the debt: If you have been the victim of identity theft, then this is an affirmative defense against being responsible for the loan. Be sure to have filed a police report when you first learn about being a victim of identity theft and bring this to court.
  • You paid the debt: It is essential to find proof if you have already paid the debt. You are most likely being sued by a debt collector who has purchased your debt from another debt collector who purchased your debt. They most likely do not have great record-keeping, which is good for you. They must be able to prove that you still owe the debt.
  • You are being sued for an incorrect amount: If you are being sued for a wrong amount then the creditor must come to court to prove exactly what you owe.

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5. File your answer

To respond to a complaint, you need to file an answer with the court. You should respond to each allegation that is made against you. The court should have a printed form for you to use, but if not, you can get one from the clerk of court. If you have any affirmative defenses then you should mention these defenses in the answer. These might include if the notices were deficient or if you do not owe the debt.

Once you have completed your answer, then you should make copies and bring them to the court. You can also send these to the court in registered mail. You may need to pay a filing fee depending on the court and you will also need to provide the creditor with a copy of your answer. If there is an attorney involved (which there most likely is), a copy of the answer should be served to the attorney.

6. Be prepared at the discovery

The discovery occurs after you file an answer. It is the phase where the facts are examined. You have the right to request proof and documents that the creditor has in their possession. You can also ask questions to help prove your case. These should be able to help you win your case if you believe you have legitimate affirmative defenses. If you are only fighting in small claims court then there may be limited discovery. It is important to examine the situation before you get to this point, and fully prepare yourself.

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

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