June 02, 2022
Summary: Avoiding service is usually not a good strategy. If you've been sued, use SoloSuit to respond.
Some unexpected events in life are wonderful, but getting served court papers for debt collection is not one of them. Worse, if you are aware that court documents are on their way, the stress and concern of colliding with a process server might significantly influence your life in a negative way.
Living with debt is already a challenging situation that creates stress in your life. If you're overwhelmed by your situation and find it easier to avoid facing a court date, it's important to know what can happen if you avoid being served court papers.
If you manage to avoid getting discovered, don't get too excited since the papers can be served on your behalf by anybody over the age of 18 who is a member of one of the following groups:
Furthermore, the recipient of the documents may be unaware of what they are accepting. They think they are signing for an essential mail piece, but not necessarily a court Summons.
It's not technically illegal to dodge process servers who are trying to hand you court papers, but the truth is, avoiding them will just make the situation worse for you in the long run. If you thought that not accepting court papers would simply make the problem go away, that's not going to happen. Instead, avoiding service of process can delay being served, which could ultimately lead to a default judgment against you.
The best advice is to focus your efforts on developing a court strategy rather than attempting to avoid getting served in the first place because it will catch up with you at some point.
Let's walk you through the situation, so you fully understand your options.
If you are concerned about a debt that might lead to a lawsuit, chances are it has been piling up for a while.
The company or individual you allegedly owe money, known as the plaintiff, has now started legal proceedings to recover the funds they believe you owe them. The court papers are notification of these legal proceedings and a summon to appear in court to face the charges.
There are different types of people that are legally allowed to serve court papers. In the state of Utah, for example, these are the people who can serve all processes issued by Utah courts:
If they have been successful in serving you the papers, they will then file “Proof of Service” paperwork to officially notify the courts you were handed the paperwork.
Then, the clocks start ticking, and you can't deny your situation any longer. While it may seem easier to avoid getting the paperwork or to ignore the paperwork altogether, it's always better to deal with the problem in a timely manner.
The good news is that there are circumstances under which you can fight the case against you. Being served isn't the end, even if you technically owe the debt. For example, you need to make sure the paperwork is actually legal.
Some debt collectors use sneaky and backhanded tricks to scare people, like serving paperwork before they've officially filed with the court system. Sometimes collectors don't even actually serve the person they're suing; this is called “sewer service.” In this case, the only way to determine whether you're being sued is to call your local court and ask.
You may get some satisfaction from dodging a process server. Maybe it turned into a game of cat and mouse to avoid getting served court papers. But in the game of real life — specifically the game of legal processes — courts aren't playing around, and the consequences will catch up to you sooner rather than later. What are common consequences you could face if you have avoided being served court papers?
Maybe you've managed to sneak in and out of your house, and you haven't yet had court papers stuck in your face. Maybe you've left the country (not recommended). Regardless of how you've delayed the inevitable, you're far from out of the woods.
Did you know a process server has many ways to find you? You could end up getting served at work (could be rather embarrassing), having the papers handed to another adult you live with, or have the Summons printed in the legal notices of your local newspaper. You should also know that getting court papers by certified mail may count as delivery of the papers, so don't pretend you didn't see that envelope the mail-person handed to you!
If you have avoided being served court papers and don't file an Answer by the deadline, it's bad news. The debt collector will likely file a motion with the court asking it to enter a “default judgment” against you.
If you're the party who avoided getting served court papers and didn't show up to the court date, what are the odds the judge will rule in your favor? Not so great. If that happens, watch out! The collector may then be allowed to garnish your wages, seize or put liens against your property, and take other aggressive legal measures.
You can avoid a default judgment by responding, within the allotted time frame, by filing an Answer into the case. Responding to being sued for a debt doesn't require an attorney. You can depend on SoloSuit to help you draft and file an Answer.
Once you've been served court papers, you can no longer avoid the court process. The clock is ticking.
Even if you feel the lawsuit against you is wrong, you still need to respond to it by filing an Answer, or you could risk getting a default judgment. Filing an Answer helps preserve your rights in the ongoing legal process, and improves your chances of a favorable outcome.
Every state has different timeframes for you to respond to the lawsuit filed against you. It's critical that you know the time frame allowed in your own state. Generally, states allow between 20 and 30 days to respond and file an Answer to a debt collection lawsuit.
Filing an Answer helps you avoid a default judgment and it may result in establishing that the debt collector or individual bringing the suit doesn't have enough evidence to support their claims against you. Debts often change hands numerous times before landing on a court docket. As a result, crucial information about the debt may get lost. If that happens, you may not have to pay the debt at all.
The case could be dismissed, freeing you from the burden of worrying about the debt. You should know that in a court of law, it falls on the plaintiff (the one suing you) to prove anything that they are alleging against you. Filing an Answer is your chance to stand up for yourself.
Learn more about how to properly file an Answer from SoloSuit's CEO, George Simons, in this video:
Laws surrounding the service of process for a summons, along with a copy of the Complaint or Petition that was filed against you, vary by state. Generally speaking, if you were not served then the court can not take legal action against you.
Process servers are required to show proof of due diligence when attempting to serve legal documents. The definition of due diligence varies by state, but generally speaking they need to document that they exhausted all reasonable means to locate you. Even if they fail to render service, that only provides a delay in the process. It is better to accept service and explore your options for beating the company or debt collector in court.
However, you should be cautious if you suspect you are being sued for a debt. As we discussed above, there are numerous ways you may have been served without the documents ever being placed directly in your hands.
To lawfully file a lawsuit, the plaintiff must serve the defendant (you) with a Summons and a copy of the Petition or Complaint. If the defendant fails to render service of such documents, the case will be dropped or continued until the service of process has taken place.
Use caution if you find out you have been sued, even if you are not aware of being served. In some states, children as young as thirteen can be served on your behalf, and certified mail can count as service of process in some instances.
You have rights when dealing with debt collectors and SoloSuit will help you take the necessary actions to preserve those rights.
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.
"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
You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now or are just looking for support, we're here 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.
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.