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Mitigating Circumstances — Definition

George Simons | October 19, 2022

George Simons
Co-Founder of SoloSuit
George Simons, JD/MBA

George Simons is the co-founder and CEO of SoloSuit. He has helped Americans protect over $1 billion from predatory debt lawsuits. George graduated from BYU Law school in 2020 with a JD-MBA. In his spare time, George likes to cook, because he likes to eat.

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: Mitigating circumstances don't excuse an offense, but they can soften the punishment for it. Here is SoloSuit's guide on mitigating circumstances and how it applies to debt-related cases.

Mitigating circumstances are factors that influence a court's decision but do not justify or excuse the offense committed by the defendant. This legal concept applies in different circumstances, from serious criminal convictions to lawsuits. Here's an overview of how the idea of mitigating circumstances applies in different scenarios.

Real-life examples of mitigating circumstances

Imagine a situation where you're driving home from work and a police officer pulls you over. The first question they'll ask you is if you know why they pulled you over. Naturally, you'll want to provide a reason that justifies your actions. For instance, if you were speeding, you may be tempted to tell the officer that your wife is going into labor or that you were going with the flow of traffic. These reasons are your mitigating circumstances.

As noted earlier, mitigating circumstances do not excuse an offense. However, the officer might consider these reasons when deciding the most appropriate punishment for the offense. In some cases, they may let you go without a ticket. In others, you may have to pay a lesser amount than you would if you hadn't mentioned your mitigating circumstances. Sometimes, the officer might offer to help you solve whatever you're dealing with.

Mitigating circumstances in debt-related issues

This legal concept is also common in debt-related cases. Here's how.

When acquiring a loan, you always hope you'll be able to pay it off as per the terms of the agreement between you and the lender. Paying off the loan will benefit you in different ways, including building your credit. However, life happens, and certain things don't go as planned. When you find yourself in a tight financial situation, you may not be able to keep up with the loan payments.

The creditor will contact you when you skip your payment. They'll first remind you about the missed payment and the new deadline (usually within the grace period). If you're still unable to pay the amount owed before the end of the new deadline, the creditor will assume that you're in a tight financial situation. As a result, they'll try to reach you to find out why you haven't paid them what you owe as agreed.

It's always advisable to be honest with the creditor if you cannot pay the debt due to unavoidable circumstances, or in other words, your mitigating circumstances For example, if you've recently lost your job, your financial priorities might change for a few months. If so, your creditor deserves to know. Most creditors will appreciate the fact that you're being honest with them. As a result, some may propose a new payment plan to allow you to get your financial situation in order.

For example, they'll want to know when you plan to resume normal payments. Do not make false promises because it could lead to a complete loss of trust. Making false promises also piles more pressure on you when it's time to honor your commitments. For example, if the contract requires that you pay $300 a month as debt repayment and you can no longer afford such payments, you should let the creditor know.

They'll most likely want to know what amount you're most comfortable with. So make sure you choose an amount that fits your current financial situation. But you can't afford the payment at all, let them know.

Some creditors might even be willing to freeze your debt for a while to allow you to get your finances back in order. Such offers usually depend on the kind of relationship you've built with the creditor. If you have a good history of paying your debt in time and notifying the creditor of any delays, they'll most likely be willing to work with you.

Are creditors obliged to negotiate a debt repayment plan?

Creditors and debt collectors are not legally obliged to accept a debt repayment plan. For this reason, some creditors or debt collection agencies will file a lawsuit against you if you default on your debt. But a debt collection lawsuit isn't the end of the world. It's important that you know what to do when faced with such a scenario.

What to do if sued over debt

Creditors don't usually have the means to pursue debt beyond a certain point. When you fail to make a payment for more than 150 days, the creditor will most likely sell off the debt to a collections agency. The agency will then contact you to follow up on the debt and hopefully create a repayment plan.

However, they'll file a debt collection lawsuit against you if they fail to reach you. You'll then receive a notification in the mail about the lawsuit. The notification will include a court Summons and Complaint. These are legal documents that notify you of the case and list the specific claims being made against you. Some consumers tend to ignore these documents, thinking that the debt will magically disappear. Unfortunately, that's not how it works.

Silence is never the solution when you're being sued over a debt. You have up to 35 days to respond to a debt collection lawsuit, depending on which state you live in.. If you don't respond, the debt collector could ask the court to pass a default judgment against you. This judgment grants the debt collector legal authority to pursue the debt using different means such as wage garnishment or putting liens on your property.

If granted, your employer will be required to deduct a portion of your wages and deposit it into the creditor's account until the debt is paid in full. This will impact your credit and finances negatively.

Use SoloSuit to respond to a debt collection lawsuit

The good news is that there's always a way out of a debt collection lawsuit. When you receive the Summons and Complaints letter, you need to respond immediately. The exact process of responding to a debt collection lawsuit varies from state to state. Instead of trying to keep up with complex processes and understand complex laws, you can use SoloSuit to respond to the lawsuit.

SoloSuit makes responding to a debt collection lawsuit easy and faster. As a result, you'll beat important deadlines and increase your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.

Follow these six steps to draft your Answer:

  1. The Answer isn't the place to tell your side of the story in detail. Instead of using an elaborate story to respond to the lawsuit, your Answer should focus on responding to the claims listed in the Complaint document. Keep it simple. You can admit, deny, or deny due to lack of knowledge.
  2. Deny, deny, deny. Most attorneys recommend that you deny as many claims as possible, forcing the debt collector to do more work to prove their side of the case.
  3. Include affirmative defenses. These are any legal reasons that the debt collector should not win the case. A common affirmative defense used in debt lawsuits is the statute of limitations, which is the time period that a debt collector has to sue someone for a debt. If the debt is past the statute of limitations, then the lawsuit is void.
  4. Use standard formatting or “style”. At the head of the Answer document, be sure to include a caption where you list the court information, party information, and case number.
  5. Include a certificate of service. It's important to serve your Answer to the party suing you. At the end of your Answer document, include a certificate of service where you verify the address you used to serve the debt collector the Answer.
  6. Sign it. Most courts reject any legal documents without signatures, which is why this last step is so crucial.

Learn more about these six tips in this video:

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.

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"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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