George Simons | June 23, 2023
Edited by Hannah Locklear
Summary: You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, file a Motion to Compel Arbitration, or settle the debt before going to court. Join our live webinars to ask your own questions about how to resolve a debt lawsuit.
The following is a transcript for one of our webinars. In it, SoloSuit's founder George Simons responds to live questions from consumers.
Disclaimer: this post is not legal advice. George is not a lawyer.
We just have a couple of questions coming in here. We have a question from Julio. It looks like Julio, you are a current customer. We want to get your case taken care of for you. Unfortunately, like, a very real step in the process is oftentimes working with the court to get the documents filed properly. If they do, if they aren't accepted the first time we file, we're here to take care of that for you. It's often a thing that happens even when you hire a full service law firm to answer for you. Courts are just difficult to work with, but we're happy to work with you to get the lawsuit filed again, and Hannah can help you out with that.
Viewer Question: What steps can be taken if a pretrial conference has been scheduled?
George: It depends on what state you're in. Not sure if anyone here is in Florida, we do have a new service in Florida where you can hire an attorney to show up in court for you through SoloSuit. So, if you're in Florida and you want to hire an attorney to show up at your hearing at a reduced rate, just go ahead and message us in the chat, and we can get you the link to do that.
If you're not in Florida, looks like you're in Colorado. You can watch our YouTube video, 3 Steps to Win Your Debt Lawsuit (In Colorado). We have a YouTube video about preparing for court. Think perhaps Hannah can send that to you in the YouTube chat. It's a great video.
Basically, main things to know, you just want to show up at the pretrial conference. Usually it's going to be talking about scheduling. So the judge will be there, the plaintiff should be there, the debt collector person should be there, and then basically they'll talk about, okay, are we actually going to go forward with this? Can you settle? If not, let's schedule a hearing.
The main thing, just make sure you have a record of everything that you're going to have a record of. Make sure you read your account and make sure you show up.
Viewer Question: I've entered a Motion to Vacate Judgment against me in New Jersey for a debt from 2009, and I have an oral argument scheduled. What should I say or not say, and what should I prepare?
George: Okay, so you've entered a motion to vacate judgment in New Jersey for death from 2009. You have an oral argument. I think when you say you have a Motion to Vacate Judgment against you, I'm not sure exactly what that would mean. I guess you're saying that you won the lawsuit in 2009. I guess that could mean a few things.
I guess on the one hand, could mean you won the lawsuit in 2009 and then the collector successfully vacated the judgment against you and you're back in court. If you show up, you should just say that the judgment should be if you won the first time, the judgment should just stand because you won and you don't want to go back to court and you don't owe the debt.
If you vacated the judgment because you lost them, like a default or something along those lines, then you should show up and say again, I don't owe this debt. The debt collector can't prove that I owe the debt, their contracts or whatever are incomplete, et cetera. And you should argue that you should be able to respond to the lawsuit because you lost on a default and you didn't have an opportunity to respond.
Viewer Question: There was a dismissal for the judgment against me for debt I owe, but they are still trying to collect. What should I do?
George: Okay, so it sounds like you got the judgment against you dismissed. So it sounds like you lost the lawsuit and then you got the judgment dismissed. That's good news, I guess. Just maybe argue that the debt wasn't properly renewed, that the judgment wasn't properly renewed, and therefore you shouldn't have to pay it. Something along those lines.
There's also some good resources available in New Jersey that you can look up. You can look up our blog articles about New Jersey. Those should help you out quite a bit as well.
Viewer Question: Should I go to court after I filed the paper for them to prove I owe the debt?
George: I guess you're saying that you're asking if you should show up in court. Yeah. After you file an Answer, oftentimes you are required to show up in court. Still, not always, but some of the time.
If you have a hearing, step number one is just make sure that you show up. Right. You definitely want to show up in the court. General standard argument here is just that the collector can't prove that you owe the debt because their contracts are incomplete or you really totally don't owe the debt in any way. And that's like the main idea. Just wants to show up in court and make that argument.
Viewer Question: I also have a pretrial conference scheduled in Texas.
George: Okay, yeah, that's good. General ideas on pretrial conference. It's a meeting between the judge, you and the plaintiff before the actual case, before the actual hearing trial. And they're probably just going to talk about they're going to ask you if you can settle.
You usually have an opportunity to settle with the plaintiff at the courthouse. And then the judge, if you don't settle, will schedule a date for the hearing. And you'll want to make sure that you show up at that hearing as well.
If you can make a record of the debt account or anything, any relevant record to make sure you can put a record together, print that out, bring that with you to the court.
Viewer Question: What if the plaintiff requests the court to enter an order to strike?
George: Let's see, usually the plaintiff will usually do that by filing a motion. And a motion to strike is a request to a judge that part of a party's pleading or a piece of evidence be removed from the court. So I guess you're probably saying, like, in order to strike a judgment or sorry, to strike evidence. If that's the case, then you just want to argue that your evidence is admissible.
That can get pretty nuanced depending on the state. But the general idea is that if you have evidence, you want to present it. You want to make sure that, one, the evidence is valid and generally acceptable, and then two, you present the evidence properly to the court.
If they filed a written motion to strike evidence, then you'll want to file a counter motion that's the general idea, right? So, common pattern in these lawsuits is one party files a motion, the other party files a counter motion or a motion opposed to the motion, and usually a memorandum, a memo arguing in favor of the motion. So that's the general idea there.
Viewer Question: What happens with the debt collector after you submit a denial to your summons?
George: I'm not sure what you mean. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by a denial to your summons here. I guess you might be asking, like, what happens after you file an Answer that is denying your Summons and denying the issues in the Complaint. If that's the case, then the collector is going to either have to make a decision to continue on with the lawsuit or dismiss the lawsuit.
Oftentimes after filing an Answer, the collector actually just dismisses the lawsuit. But if they think there's enough money in it for them to continue, then they'll continue going forward and try to get a win against you. That's the general idea there.
Viewer Question: I used your site to respond to the lawsuit. What can I expect the next step to be? I am in Texas.
George: All right, what a lot of people do is they'll use our SoloSettle tool to make an offer to the collector to settle. So that is a good option, I guess on the more broad level, you'll kind of want to ask yourself, like, what is your desired outcome in the lawsuit?
For most of our customers, the desired outcome is to settle. But some people want other options. If they find out that they don't owe any portion of the debt in any way, then they'll probably be fighting for a dismissal of the lawsuit instead of a settlement. And then in some occasions, rarely do people actually want to go forward with the trial and try to get a jury trial and go all the way to the end.
And then in some other situations, people might want to sue the collector. They might want to countersue the collector because they believe the collector violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by calling them at midnight or something like that. But for most cases, people want to settle.
So for most people, the thing to do after filing an Answer is to use our tool, SoloSettle, and make an offer to settle the debt.
The next question people usually have is like, well, how much should I make an offer for? And the answer is up to you. If we're me, knowing what I know about SoloSettle right now, I'd probably be inclined to just lead with my best offer and make that offer and then hope that the collector accepts it and you can get the case settled.
What we've seen in our data so far is that most lawsuits are settling between 50% and 60% of the total amount. So if you're being sued for $10,000, most likely the lawsuit will be settled for $5,000 to $6,000. And the main indicator on whether or not a case settles on SoloSettle, not all cases settle, not all cases, you get a win. Right? We don't guarantee any outcomes here, but main indicator on SoloSettle and whether or not a case will settle is whether or not the initial offer from the consumer is within 20% of the acceptable amount of the collector.
So that means if you come into SoloSettle and you make an offer, you're being sued for $10,000, make an offer for $1,000 and the collector's range of settlement, like what they're looking to settle at is $6,000, then it's unlikely that that case will settle. However, if you come in SoloSettle, make your first offer at $5,000 and the collector's target amount is $6,000, that's within that's 10% difference. That's within that 20% range and it's more likely to settle. So there you go.
Watch this video to learn more about how to settle your debt:
Viewer Question: I did send the SoloSettle offer to debt lawyers via SoloSuit’s website last week. How will I know if this was accepted?
George: So, it sounds like you're a SoloSuit customer. If you used SoloSettle to make an offer, we will update you.
So if the collector accepts or counter offers, we'll send you an email stating one of those two things has happened. And then you'll receive a link in the email and then you can click it and it'll take you back onto our website where you can then if they accepted, if the collector accepted, we'll get the settlement agreement from them. We'll send it to you on the website, you'll be able to sign it, review it and sign it if you agree and then send it back to them. And then you'll be able to transfer the money to them.
If they counter offered, the collector counter offered, then you'll be able to either accept their counteroffer or make a return counteroffer to them.
Viewer Question: Do you have different rights if it is a medical debt?
George: All right, so it sounds like you’re wondering what happens if you're sued for medical debt. I don't know of any particular rights offhand. I'm sure that gets nuanced. Maybe there are, in some states, a particular set of debtors’ rights.
Some states, some limited states, have a different statute of limitations based on medical debt. Not very many of them, but a couple do. And then there's a bigger movement for getting medical debt resolved completely. Right? So some creditors and credit report bureaus have decided to not report medical debt on credit reports. Also to not collect medical debt. They also have a big nonprofit called Medical Debt Rip, which is like paying off large swaths of people's medical debt.
But as far as particular rights on medical debt, nothing that I know of in particular. Something to be aware of is that you can terminate medical debt through bankruptcy pretty much almost all the time. Unlike student loan debt, you can get rid of medical debt with bankruptcy.
Viewer Question: I'm in Michigan. How do you know if a credit card company has an arbitration clause? The card was taken out in 2005.
George: Yeah, good question. So we usually refer people to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's credit card database. Think Hannah may be able to put that into the chat? Let's see. I'm just trying to find that message again. Yeah, I think Hannah's probably providing that and then yeah, if the agreement if the arbitration clause isn't in there, then A Motion to Compel Arbitration won't have any impact.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's database usually provides recent credit card agreements. It doesn't necessarily provide the ones from 2005, but for the most part, they haven't really changed, as far as I know.
There's like a few lawsuits about a decade or more ago that ended with several of the large banks changing and removing the arbitration clauses, but for the most part, they haven't really changed.
Okay. All right, we're down to last few minutes here in the webinar, so I'm going to try to just get through some final questions here. Rapid fire.
Viewer Question: Is doing a counterclaim a good idea?
George: It can be. It basically depends on if you have a substance for a counterclaim. So if they violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or some other thing potentially, or like your state law, then you may have a counterclaim against them.
The FDCPA violation is worth $1,000 for every violation, which might seem like a lot of money to you, but for most attorneys, it's not like a ton of money. But there's at least a few lawyers in every state that are making their money from FDCPA claims.
If you think you have a claim against your collector, feel free to email us and we can refer you to somebody. We have a few law firms that we work with in that regard.
Viewer Question: A debt collector has summoned me, but I called the next day and settled. Do I still need to respond to the sentence? The debt collector’s attorney stated that I do not have to, but I just want to be sure.
George: If you settled, you still have to respond. I would definitely respond. Definitely respond. Because depending on a few things, unless you get a settlement agreement in writing that dismisses the lawsuit, I would respond because it's kind of a common debt collector trope.
Definitely not all debt collectors do this, but we have seen some do it, some bad actors… It’s a sketchy move by some collectors, where they sue you, and then you get a settlement agreement, and they act like, yes, totally valid, totally cool, don't worry about responding. And then they surprise attack: file for a default judgment against you after your deadline to respond has passed.
And since it wasn't stipulated in the settlement agreement that they couldn't do that, or that the case was dismissed, all of a sudden you lost it on default. And then as soon as the settlement agreement falls through, or like, if you make a payment, like a day late or something, they can then enter that default judgment and they can start garnishing your wages. So that's bad news. So responding is the best way to protect yourself against that.
Viewer Question: I received the case management order and have been ordered to participate in good faith settlement options and to file a pretrial statement no later than 30 days before August 23.
George: Okay. Yeah, that's like, a pretty common pretty common thing. So it varies from each court how the good faith settlement takes place. Sometimes that takes place in person at the courthouse. Sometimes the collector will just reach out to you trying to settle. You can reach out to the collector, try to settle. If there is no settlement, then you'll probably have to go to court.
The pretrial statement, oftentimes there's, like some kind of a template, but just make your statement in that, whether that's like, you're trying to settle or you're going to the court. Include the records, documentation of your debt, and evidence showing that you should win the lawsuit
Viewer Question: There's an arbitration clause in my credit card agreement. Does that automatically mean I should push the arbitration, or is this only for certain cases?
George: Yeah, good question. In most cases where there's an arbitration clause, it makes sense to file a Motion to Compel Arbitration if this is something that makes it more difficult for the collector to collect on debt, increasing the cost of collection.
So oftentimes it's a good move to do that. It can depend on certain situations, but unless you're bringing up something specific, generally speaking, good idea to do the Motion to Compel Arbitration.
Watch the following video to learn more about how filing a Motion to Compel Arbitration can help you win your debt lawsuit:
Viewer Question: What happens if you settle but don't have the money to pay at all?
George: Right, in SoloSettle, we request a 90-day payment deadline, so we negotiate to get a payment deadline of 90 days into the future. That works for most collectors, and that gives you three months to get all the money together and then make the payment.
Generally, I would push for a longer deadline rather than a monthly payment. Oftentimes monthly payments to settle aren't successful, just like people fall through and don't complete the payments for whatever reason. But a lump-sum payment is more likely to be successful, and you can just make the payment, get done with it, and be done altogether at once.
I'd rather pay more money at a single time at a further point into the future, like 60 days in the future, rather than doing twelve monthly payments of a certain amount.
Viewer Question: Is it best to deny the claim if you want to settle the suit?
George: Yes. We find if any attorney that you were to hire, they would deny every claim in the Complaint. In most cases, they might admit, like a few select ones. They deny the majority of the meaningful claims, and that gives you more leverage to settle the lawsuit. All right.
Viewer Question: How do you deal with Amex debt? They are not willing to settle.
George: American Express, I think we've seen some settlements with them. Generally we consider, like, not willing to settle as a negotiation tactic. Unfortunately, maybe they aren't. Maybe you aren't offering enough. Maybe they're just waiting to see how the lawsuit pans out, et cetera.
Again, if there's an arbitration clause, you can try filing a Motion to Compel Arbitration. You can try increasing your offer to settle. You can also just try waiting. Or you can try calling back. If it's for the debt collector, you can try calling back. And hopefully you get a different collector.
Usually we found that debt collectors operate pretty differently based on which person you get, and you could get a different result. Right. They're kind of doing an art. It's not really a science. They have quite a bit of power to do things differently depending on who you're talking to. All right.
Viewer Question: A lawyer from LVNV called me today. Should I talk to them? Sent me a summons.
George: I wouldn't talk to them. I wouldn't talk to someone until I wouldn't talk to a debt collector until I filed an Answer.
Once you file an Answer, you've asserted your rights in court. You've showed them that you're a serious person and you know how to do serious things. And then once I file an answer, you can send them an offer to settle on SoloSettle.
You can also call them directly if you want. If they're calling you, they're probably going to want to settle. You can check out Hannah. Hannah made a great chart about recording laws in different states. Turns out, in most states, you actually only need the consent of yourself to record a phone call. So we need to tell the person you're recording. So I would definitely consider, like, recording a phone call if I'm having a phone call with a collector. Could also consider emailing them instead of doing a live negotiation over the phone.
George: Okay. I think that looks like we got to most of the people here. If I didn't, hopefully Hannah responded to you in the chat, and thanks a lot for being here. Glad you guys are here. Glad we can help you out with SoloSuit.
Just in summary, if you're sued for debt, first step, you want to respond to the lawsuit. And then if you want to settle, you can send them an offer to settle with SoloSettle. All right. We are here to help you guys out. Again, we're on your team. I sincerely hope that each and every one of you get the victory that you are looking for in court and that we can help you out. All right, I'm going to sign off. Thanks for being here again. If you have any other questions, you can always email us. Thanks for coming.
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.
Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? Were making guides on how to beat each one.
You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now are are just look for support, we're here for you.
Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.
Out Debt Validation Letter is the best way to respond to a collection letter. Many debt collectors will simply give up after receiving it.
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