What Happens After I File an Answer to My Debt Lawsuit?
Sarah Edwards | October 27, 2023
Edited by Hannah Locklear
Summary: Once you file an Answer to a debt lawsuit, the next steps depend on the creditor. Ideally, you can settle the debt to avoid court, or you may have to appear before a judge. If you fail to respond quickly to the initial lawsuit or Summons, the judge could render a judgment in your creditor’s favor — which shows how important it is to act now. SoloSuit can help you file an Answer fast.
Debt collectors and creditors don’t expect you to contest the claims of a debt lawsuit. In fact, they hope that you don’t — because if you fail to respond, they can request a default judgment in their favor.
That’s why it’s crucial to prepare and file an Answer right away. But what happens after you file an Answer to a debt lawsuit?
What is an Answer?
An Answer is a formal, written response to a debt lawsuit. Once you have been sued for your debt, you become the defendant in a civil lawsuit. Preparing an Answer allows you to respond to the plaintiff’s case. Your Answer might include an affirmative defense that presents facts contradicting your creditor’s claims.
Keep in mind that you have a limited window of time in which to file an Answer — often as little as two weeks.
Failing to respond in a timely manner can result in a default judgment against you, and the court may even award the debt collector or creditor with additional costs, such as legal fees or debt collection fees. That’s why it’s vital to file an Answer with the court as soon as possible.
I filed an Answer — now what?
Filing an Answer with the court is an important first step. But you’re not out of the woods yet. What happens next depends on what the other party chooses to do, so get ready for the following next steps:
Fill out additional forms
While filing an Answer is your primary concern, some local courts may have additional forms to complete. If you’re unsure regarding your local requirements, check with your county clerk’s office or the website where you filed your Answer. If you have to fill out more forms, make copies and save them with your other records.
Check your mail
Once you file your Answer, keep a close eye on your mail. You may receive documents from the court, such as confirmations that it has received your Answer. Ignoring important documents or missing a deadline can cause you to lose your case, resulting in a default judgment in your creditor’s favor.
You might also receive documents from the plaintiff (the creditor). They may request additional information or evidence. In the best case scenarios, the plaintiff may contact you by mail to pursue a settlement agreement and avoid court altogether.
Settle your debt
Just because a creditor is threatening to take you to court doesn’t mean that they are prepared to do so. The creditor may lack sufficient evidence to prove that you owe the debt. Or your debt may not be large enough to warrant the time and resources that will be tied up in the legal process.
As a result, many creditors prefer to negotiate a settlement. The creditor might present you with a settlement offer that’s lower than the original debt. However, it’s better if you take the initiative and start the settlement negotiation process yourself. This could lead to an agreement that works better for you and your financial situation.
Unless you settle your debt or the creditor drops the case, you will be asked to appear in court on a specific date and time. You will not have control over the court date, and failing to appear can result in a default judgment.
You’ll appear before a judge, at which time you can present exonerating evidence surrounding the debt. You also have the legal right to request a trial or request that your creditor produce a Bill of Particulars, a legal document that details the nature of your debt and provides evidence that ties you to the debt.
Not sure how to answer a Court Summons? Check out the three steps provided in this video:
Pay your debt
The best case scenario is that you settle or renegotiate your debt, ideally before your court date. Once you and your creditor reach a settlement agreement, you’ll be free from your legal problems as long as you continue making payments according to your payment schedule.
However, if you lose the lawsuit, the plaintiff can garnish your wages or even place a lien against your property until the full debt is paid. Again, the courts can also award creditors additional money to cover legal costs or debt collection fees, which is why it’s vital to respond to the lawsuit quickly and pursue a settlement agreement.
Settle your debt to avoid going to court
Going to court isn’t just a hassle; it’s also risky. Appearing in court opens the door to a judgment against you, which could leave you on the hook for the entire debt as well as your creditor’s legal fees.
To avoid this, try to settle your debt as quickly as possible. Start by making a settlement offer. A good rule of thumb is to offer 60% of the total debt. Your creditor may accept this or respond with a counteroffer. Make sure to get your final settlement in writing; otherwise, an unscrupulous creditor may try to seek a default judgment against you anyway.
What might the debt settlement process look like? Consider the following example.
Example: Andrew had been receiving phone calls about his credit card debt. Soon enough, he opened the mail to discover that he was facing a debt lawsuit. Thankfully, Andrew was able to use SoloSuit to file his Answer with the court. He also used SoloSettle to submit a settlement offer for 60% of his total debt. The debt collector submitted a counteroffer of 65%, which Andrew accepted. He’s now committing to his payment plan and working to rebuild his credit, and in return, the collector dismissed the case.
SoloSettle, powered by SoloSuit, makes debt settlement easier. The SoloSettle software helps you send and receive settlement offers until you reach an agreement with your creditor. Learn more here: How to Settle a Debt in 3 Steps
Prepare your Answer today
Are you facing a debt lawsuit? Don’t panic. SoloSuit can help. Use SoloSuit to draft a legal Answer. You can either print the forms and file them yourself or ask SoloSuit to file them for you after review by an attorney.
What happens after I file an Answer to my debt lawsuit?
After you file an Answer to your debt collection Summons and Complaint, there are several routes the lawsuit could take. The flowchart below illustrates these potential routes.
Now, let’s break down each path that a debt lawsuit might take in detail.
You could file a Motion to Compel Arbitration
If you are being sued for credit card debt and your credit card agreement contains an arbitration clause, this could be a good option for you. If granted, this type of motion would push the case out of court and into arbitration.
Arbitration is a process that involves a neutral, independent arbiter who listens to both sides of a dispute and makes an informed decision to help both parties come to an agreement. It’s less intimidating than going to court, and it doesn’t involve the complicated legal process of a hearing or trial.
Arbitration can be costly. This is why most creditors and debt collectors try to avoid arbitration and why filing a Motion to Compel Arbitration could lead to a dismissal in your case—it may not be worth it to continue pursuing the debt if a creditor or collector must cover the costs of arbitration.
You could file a Motion to Dismiss
A motion to dismiss is a formal request that the judge dismiss a case without reviewing all the legal arguments and case facts. This type of motion can be powerful if it is obvious that you do not owe the debt in question and can easily prove it, or if there is no legal grounds for the case to be filed.
The court might not have jurisdiction over the case.
The location where the lawsuit was filed could be wrong.
The lawsuit wasn't legally served to you.
The plaintiff didn't name an essential party in the lawsuit or named the wrong person or entity.
The plaintiff could file a Motion to Dismiss
Likewise, the plaintiff could file a motion to dismiss just as well. This is fairly common in debt collection cases, usually because debt buyers file lawsuits in bulk and hope to collect as much money out of them as possible. At times, continuing the legal process may cost more than the potential profit they would make if they win the case. In such circumstances, a creditor or debt collector may file a motion to dismiss.
This is one of the most ideal outcomes you can hope for in a debt collection case—this and settlement.
The plaintiff could file a Request for Admissions
If, however, your creditor or debt collector decides it’s worth it to continue the legal process, they may file a Request for Admissions into the case.
A Request for Admissions is a legal document that initiates discovery in a debt lawsuit. Discovery is the formal legal process in which both parties in a case exchange information—evidence, documentation of the debt, etc.—about the case. It is a way for both parties to prepare for a trial or hearing.
If you receive a Request for Admissions, you must respond within 30 days or run the risk of losing the case.
You could settle the debt
Debt settlement is arguably the best way to resolve a debt lawsuit because it can help you save money and clear your name of the debt once and for all.
Like we mentioned before, your creditor may agree to a settlement that is lower than the original debt amount. This is fine and dandy, but what’s really appealing about a debt settlement is the fact that it will release you of the obligation forever (as long as you hold your end of the bargain and pay the settlement) and it has a less negative effect on your credit score than failure to pay.
Some creditors, banks, and lenders have an internal collections department. If they come after you for a debt, Solosuit can still help you respond and resolve the debt. Here’s a list of guides on how to resolve debt with different creditors.
Don’t have time to go to your local courthouse to check the status of your case? We’ve created a guide on how to check the status of your case in every state, complete with online search tools and court directories.
Forgot to respond to your debt lawsuit? The judge may have ordered a default judgment against you, and with a default judgment, debt collectors can garnish your wages. Here are our guides on how to stop wage garnishment in all 50 states.
Debt settlement is one of the most effective ways to resolve a debt and save money. We’ve created a guide on how to settle your debt in all 50 states. Find out how to settle in your state with a simple click and explore other debt settlement resources below.
Not sure how to negotiate a debt settlement with a debt collector? We are creating guides to help you know how to start the settlement conversation and increase your chances of coming to an agreement with every debt collector.
If the thought of going to court stresses you out, you’re not alone. Many Americans who are sued for credit card debt utilize a Motion to Compel Arbitration to push their case out of court and into arbitration.
Below are some resources on how to use an arbitration clause to your advantage and win a debt lawsuit.
Do you keep getting calls from an unknown number, only to realize that it’s a debt collector on the other line? If you’ve been called by any of the following numbers, chances are you have collectors coming after you, and we’ll tell you how to stop them.
And 50% of our customers' cases have been dismissed in the past.
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