The short answer: get an attorney. However, there are some who would rather try to defend themselves in court. If you receive a summons to appear in court because you are being sued by a debt collection company, you have options.
Step 1 – Time is of the Essence
If you received a summons to appear in court because you are being sued by a debt collection company for credit card debt, you have a limited window of time to answer the complaint. When being sued by a debt collection company in Florida, you have 20 days (including Saturdays and Sundays) to answer. If you do not answer, you will be subject to a summary judgement which means you automatically lose. Over 90% of credit card debt lawsuits end in a summary judgement because people do not respond after being summoned.
Step 2 – The All-Encompassing Answer
While submitting an answer in time is essential, it is not enough. You must submit an answer that addresses ALL complaints listed by the plaintiff. At this point, making excuses for why you did not pay will only hurt your case as excuses are an admission that you, in fact, owe the debt.
If you wish to deny every complaint made by the plaintiff, you can easily do so by saying “All allegations brought forth by the plaintiff are false.” Keep in mind, this must be true or you are lying to the court. If you are in court fighting a lawsuit for credit card debt, there is a good chance you did not pay that debt. In this case, you have what are called “affirmative defenses”. Creditinfo.com describes three common debt lawsuit affirmative defenses:
- Statute of Limitations – This is one of the most powerful defenses in any case. In Florida, a debt stemming from revolving credit is outside of the statute of limitations after four years have passed.
- Lack of Standing – As one of the most common defenses, Lack of Standing finds itself in most answers. Lack of Standing means the debt collection company does not own the debt and has no right to sue you for it.
- Failure of Consideration – Failure of Consideration means there was no exchange of goods or services between the plaintiff and defendant, thus, nothing is owed to the plaintiff.
Step 3 – The Beauty of Discovery
During Discovery, you can ask the plaintiff for documents they will be using to prove your guilt. In many cases, the plaintiff will lack these documents so it is important that you demand they provide them. Once you have these documents, it is up to you to show the court that the plaintiff lacks the evidence to prove you are guilty.
This is a simplified guide to a very complex process. The most appropriate way to give yourself the best chance to win a credit card debt lawsuit is to retain the services of an experienced debt defense attorney in Florida. Elias Dsouza has been defending people from debt collectors for over 15 years.