Court Summons for Debt Collection
Receiving a court summons because of an unpaid debt can be one of the most frightening and intimidating experiences of your life. For many people, it is their first interaction with the legal system, and assuming they are an otherwise “above the law” individual, it can be terrifying to be served.
Understanding what it means to receive a summons and knowing what to do in the aftermath can take away a great deal of the fear and ensure the situation doesn’t get any worse.
First, it’s important to know what a summons is. If you’ve never been served and you don’t have any reason to be familiar with the legal system, there’s a chance you’ve never even heard of a summons.
A summons is an official order to appear in court because you’ve been named in a lawsuit. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with unpaid debt, but for our purposes we’ll assume your summons is related to debt. A summons is served to you because a plaintiff (in this case a creditor or bill collector) filed a complaint against you in court and named you as a defendant. Because you have acted or failed to act in some manner (pay the debt) the plaintiff is asking the court to intervene and force an action to occur (you to pay the debt).
How Do You Know a Summons is Legitimate?
This is one of the most common questions someone asks after he or she has been served for the first time.
It’s also common for debt collectors to send documents out that mimic official court documents. Their goal is to scare you into thinking they are taking you to court, when in reality the document was typed in their office and signed by someone on their staff. In this case, no judge or court clerk has never even seen the document and is completely unaware it exists.
Mimicking official court documents could be in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, so you should contact an attorney immediately if you believe you’ve been “fake served.”
An authentic Summons & Complaint will be two separate documents. They will be clearly labeled and feature the information for a specific court, as well as information about the parties involved and the claims against you. The original lender will likely be named and all of the official information associated with the current bill collector will be included. Also included will be details concerning the debt, including all associated debts and the amount of the debt.
You can contact the court to determine if the complaint is legitimate and that it has been filed with the court. The plaintiff has a certain amount of time to file the complaint and if it has been properly filed, the court will assign a case and docket number.
Also if you were served with the papers at your home or office then it is most likely legitimate. Feel free to send the papers over to us to review. Bill collectors generally just mail you documents, but if you were personally served this is different.
How Should I Respond to the Complaint?
You’ll also be required to respond to the complaint within a certain period of time. Failing to do so or to appear in court on the appointed date will result in a default judgment against you. This gives the plaintiff, which in this case is a debt collector, the authority to take further action against you. For many, this means the debt collector will be able to garnish bank accounts or pursue debt repayment in other aggressive ways.
There are a few ways you can respond to the complaint. The first isn’t really responding at all – it’s just ignoring the complaint. Next you can try to defend the case yourself, or you can hire an experienced debt relief law firm for a flat fee.
Ignoring the Complaint
Ignoring a complaint is the worst thing you can do, even if a complaint against you regarding a debt is not legitimate. Sometimes debt collectors have incorrect information or they attempt to collect on a debt that you no longer owe. (Usually, they won’t go to the expense of taking you to court unless they know they stand a good chance of winning, but this isn’t always the case.) Ignoring a complaint ensures they will win their case against you.
This means that even if a debt isn’t legit, they’ll be able to make collection efforts against you because you didn’t bother responding and defending yourself to the court. Once they are granted a default judgement, they’ll be able to put a lien against your home, garnish your wages, and repossess personal property. No matter what, always make sure you respond to a summons and complaint, even if you know you don’t owe a dime to the debt collector.
Defending the case yourself
This is also not a good idea. Courts will presume that you know the rules of civil procedure and Judges will not cut you much slack if you fail to comply with all rules.
Hire a Debt Relief Law Firm
This is the best option. At Weston Legal we charge flat fees to defend lawsuit. Thus, you know what the fee will be and it won’t change. We have affordable payment plans for all fees. You also most likely won’t need to appear in Court as we will appear for you.
If you’ve been served, you need to take action fast. For more information or to schedule a consultation to discuss a Summons and Complaint you’ve received, contact 1.800.220.4318.