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Can I Pay a Debt Before the Court Date?

Chloe Meltzer | March 06, 2023

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.

You can avoid going to court when you pay off your debt ^^

Summary: At any stage of a debt collection lawsuit, you can reach out to the creditor or debt collector suing you to negotiate a payment plan or settlement offer. If you do so before the court, the case may be voluntarily dismissed. You can use SoloSuit to settle your debt quickly.

If you are dealing with a debt lawsuit, it can be a stressful process. Especially because many debt lawsuits result from poor financial planning or simply forgetting to pay a bill. If you are being sued for a debt, there are many options and things to consider.

Although you may want to pay off the debt before you go to court, you will need to respond properly first and decide whether or not paying the debt is the best option.

What happens when you don't show up for your court date?

It's important to note that, although you won't go to prison for not paying a debt, you can go to jail for avoiding a court date. This means you should always respond properly with a written, legal Answer.

If you don't respond, a judge might award the creditor a default judgment against you. This means that you lose the case automatically, and they have the legal right to garnish your wages, take money directly from your bank account, or seize your property.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides insight on what to expect if you fail to respond to a debt collection lawsuit. Wage garnishment, court costs, and a hefty hit to your credit score are just some of the results you can expect if you fail to respond.

Therefore, the most important thing to do with a debt lawsuit is to respond and show up for your court Summons.

Respond to a debt collection lawsuit in 15 minutes with SoloSuit.

What happens when you are sued for debt?

Credit card companies can sue you for a defaulted debt. Each bank has its own policy, but generally, you do not need to worry about being sued for debt until a debt is at least six months past due.

If they attempt to collect on your debt and you ignore it, or you have paid nothing for six months, it may be written off as uncollectible. The next step is reporting to the credit bureau. At this point, you might also be sued by the original creditor or a third-party debt collector to whom they have sold the debt.

If it's a debt collector, they purchase debt from the original holder or another debt collector for a small percentage of the original debt amount. Besides keeping certain debt records, they must follow specific rules in order to collect on the debt or sue. For this reason, debt lawsuits have loopholes, and when debt collectors cannot comply with all the rules of debt lawsuits, they give you a chance to defend yourself. Keep reading to find out how.

Use these affirmative defenses in your debt collection lawsuit

Debt collectors often file lawsuits hoping you (the defendant) will not reply, and they will gain a default judgment against you. You have up to 35 days, depending on where you live, to respond to the lawsuit with a written Answer document.

In your Answer, you should respond to each claim that has been made against you. You should also assert your affirmative defenses or any legal reasons that the debt collector should not win the lawsuit.

Here are some affirmative defenses you can use in your debt collection case:

  • The statute of limitations governs how long a plaintiff can sue you can sue for debt and is one of the most common and powerful affirmative defenses. Depending on the state that you live in and the type of debt in question, you can be sued for anywhere from three to 20 years. If the statute of limitations has expired, the plaintiff's case will be dropped.
  • The account in question does not belong to you.
  • The entity suing you does not legally own the debt.
  • There was an agreement about the amount paid on the debt, and the plaintiff released the defendant from any further obligations, or the debt was otherwise satisfied.

Now, let's take a look at an example.

Example: Nina owes money on a credit card in California, and she hasn't paid towards the debt in five years. A debt collector purchases the old debt from the original creditor and sues Nina. In California, the statute of limitations on credit debt is four years. Since Nina hasn't been active on the account for five years, the debt collector does not have the legal right to sue her. Nina uses SoloSuit to file an Answer where she uses this as an affirmative defense. The debt collector drops the case, and Nina wins!

When a debt collector sues you on a whim, an Answer may be enough to stop the lawsuit.

Make the right defense the right way with SoloSuit.

Can you pay a debt before the court date?

If you forgot about a debt and have the funds to pay it off, or you suddenly have come into the means to pay for the debt you are being sued for, you have a few options. One positive part of being sued for debt is that you have the opportunity to negotiate a debt settlement.

Since you are willing to pay the debt in full, you can attempt to settle the debt for less. You can also set up a payment plan. Both options can help you avoid having a default judgment placed against you, and both will help you avoid going to court and having to argue your case.

How does a debt settlement agreement work?

If you and your creditor reach a debt settlement agreement, it usually benefits both parties. It's an opportunity to cut a good deal with the debt collector, while saving yourself fees, interest, and the hassle of a lawsuit

Avoiding the courtroom is always the best plan. Creditors and debt collectors prefer to avoid the courtroom since it costs them money in legal fees. Plus, once you enter the courtroom, you can no longer negotiate in the same way. Negotiations usually take place directly with their lawyers after a lawsuit is filed.

You can start the debt settlement negotiation process by sending a Debt Lawsuit Settlement Letter. A settlement offer provides the debt collector an alternative to court. As much as you want to win the lawsuit and pay nothing, offering to close the case by paying less than the amount owed may be more realistic.

In fact, many debt collectors purchase old debts for a fraction of the original amount. On average, debts are sold to debt buyers for 4¢ per dollar. This means that most debt collectors are willing to reach a settlement for less than the full debt amount because they will still make a profit if you only pay off a percentage of your debt.

Let's consider another example.

Example: Ben owes his credit card company $1,000. After six months of missed payments, the credit card company reports the debt to the credit reporting bureaus and writes the debt off as uncollectible. A few years later, the company sells the debt for just $40, along with a large package of other debt portfolios, to a debt collection agency called Midland Funding. You heard that right—the debt collection agency only paid 4% of the original debt amount. Midland Funding then reaches out to Ben about the debt, trying to get him to pay it off in full. After a few months, Midland files a lawsuit against Ben. He uses SoloSuit to file an Answer to the case and send a Debt Lawsuit Settlement Letter. Eventually, Ben and Midland Funding reach a settlement agreement of $500. Ben only has to pay off half of the original debt amount, and Midland Funding still makes a huge profit.

You can learn more about the debt settlement process in this video:

Handling a settlement before your court date

Once you are summoned to court, you have fewer options, but you still have more options than when you are in court. If you are hoping to settle your debt before the court date, you need to take the following steps to prepare yourself.

Find out information on who is suing you

Check to see whether you are being sued by your original creditor or a debt collection agency. If a collection agency is suing you, they most likely bought your debt for pennies on the dollar. This means that you have a better chance of negotiating a lower payment amount.

Respond to the lawsuit

As mentioned previously, it is essential to respond to the lawsuit. Even if you plan to pay off the amount before the court, you still need to respond to the lawsuit within the timeline determined by the state where the suit was filed. The timeline for filing an Answer ranges from 14-35 days. You can use this Solosuit tool to determine the deadline in your state.

When you receive a Complaint and Summons, the clock starts ticking on the deadline for filing your Answer. Make sure to answer every paragraph of the complaint with admit, deny, or lack of knowledge. Only admit to paragraphs where you know every part of the claim to be true. Solosuit can make the process of crafting and filing your Answer easy and painless.

Ask for a settlement

The final step is to contact whoever is suing you to discuss a settlement by making an offer. You can offer a lump sum at a lower price and pay it immediately in full. Typically, you will pay a lot less in this situation. Another option is to ask for smaller, more manageable payments on a schedule.

Although this will not reduce the amount you pay, it can make it so that you do not have a default judgment against you.

SoloSettle makes it easy to settle your debt on your own—for good!

Settle with SoloSettle

Make an Offer

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.

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

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit. (We can help you in all 50 states.)

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