Consumer Rights Q&A

What to Expect When You Are Being Sued.

Questions and Answers Regarding Debt Lawsuits

These lawsuits are usually filed by debt buyers who are trying to collect on a debt - but we understand that you might not owe the debt, and even if you do, the debt buyer may be violating the law in suing you. Our goal is to help you understand your rights under consumer protection and debt collection laws, so that you can be proactive and wise if you are being sued. Below are some frequently asked questions and answers about debt buyer lawsuits. For a free confidential consultation * with an experienced lawyer about your situation and your options, call Robert Heath at 850-502-2117

Facts about Debt Buyers

Q. What is a debt buyer? A. A debt buyer is a company that claims to have bought a debt that you defaulted on and now it claims to own the debt.

Q. Is it legal for a debt buyer to sue me? A. Yes - but only if it owns the debt. We have not yet seen a situation where a debt buyer can actually prove it owns the debt. But assuming it truly owns the debt, it is proper for the debt buyer to sue you. (However, even if the debt buyer owns the debt, if it sues you after the statute of limitations has expired, the debt buyer has likely violated the law.)

What to Do If You Are Being Sued - Answering the Debt Buyer Lawsuit

Q. Do I have to answer the lawsuit or can I ignore it? A. If you ignore the lawsuit, the judge will most likely enter a default judgment against you in favor of the debt buyer.

Q. What is a default judgment? A. A default judgment is where the judge rules that you owe the debt buyer everything the debt buyer claims against you plus court costs and the attorney's fees for the debt buyer.

Q. Why is a default judgment a bad thing? A. It's bad for several reasons. A judgment can appear on your credit report for many years. Bank accounts can be garnished. Your wages can be garnished. If you own personal property or real estate, it can sometimes be sold to pay off all or part of the judgment.

Q. How do I avoid a default judgment? A. In small claims, you must attend the pre-trial conference.

Q. How can I avoid having to go to court? A. If you retain us to represent you, we can make the court appearance for you. You will not have to appear. Otherwise, you will have to appear in court and speak with the judge. Since there are many others in your situation, you could be waiting for two hours or more.

Q. If I appear in court by myself, what do I say? A. That depends upon your circumstances. The judge will want to know if you dispute the dept and, if so, when you are available to attend a trial. If not, the court will enter a judgment against you and the debt buyer's attorney will want to know when you can pay the judgment.

The Collection Trial - What to Expect in Court

Q. If I attend the pre-trial conference, what happens next? A. The court will normally set the case for trial. This may be in a month or six months depending on the court's schedule. You should be notified at court or by a letter or card from the court. If you don't receive anything, it is a good idea to call the court (clerk's office) and find out if your case has been set for trial.

Q. What happens if I miss my court date? A. Normally, the judge will enter a default judgment against you - just the same as if you never answered the complaint.

Q. What happens at trial? A. The debt buyer is the plaintiff and must prove its case against you. The debt buyer will call any witnesses it has and try to introduce as evidence any documents it has to prove you owe the debt to the debt buyer. You can then show any evidence you have.

Q. What if I know I owe the original creditor - such as Discover Card, Bank of America, etc.? A. The debt buyer has to prove that it owns the debt. We have seen times when two debt buyers claim to own the same debt! This is why a debt buyer must prove it actually owns the debt. You may admittedly owe money to the original creditor but you don't owe money to the debt buyer unless it proves in its lawsuit against you that it truly owns the debt that you owed to the original creditor.

Q. If I hire you, do I have to show up for the trial? A. Each case is different but we normally don't need you to be at the trial because you can't testify to whether the debt buyer owns the debt. If there are things you can testify to that will help your case we may want you to be at the trial. Also if you receive a subpoena from the company that sued you, then you need to show up.

Q. How do I know if I won or lost? A. You win if the court dismisses the case with prejudice. You also win if the court enters a judgment in your favor. We do not consider it a win if the court dismisses the case without prejudice as you could be sued again on the same debt.

If You Win the Collection Case - What Happens Next?

Q. Can the debt buyer file an appeal? A. The debt buyer can file an appeal and start the trial over in circuit court. This can happen but is fairly rare in our experience.

Q. If I win at trial, will the debt buyer's account on my credit report be removed? A. Maybe. It should be removed from your credit reports as winning the case (dismissal with prejudice or judgment for you as the defendant) means that you do not owe the money to the debt buyer. So, the debt buyer should automatically remove the account from your credit reports. This rarely happens. To make sure, we will help you send out dispute letters to the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to request that they remove the account. If they do, then you are done. If they don't, then we can discuss suing the credit reporting agencies and the debt buyer. We have filed such cases in the past.

Lawyer Fees

Q. How much will it cost to talk to you? A. NOTHING! We don't charge for initially talking with you on the phone or meeting with you in person to help you understand your options.

Q. What do you charge to represent me at the trial? A. NOTHING! If after discussing with you the merits of your case and we decide to take your case and represent you, you will not be charged any fees. We will look to the debt buyer who is suing you to pay our fees.

Q. Why does it matter if the debt buyer appears on my credit report? A. Because we intend (but can't promise) on winning your collection case, and then if the debt buyer does not correct your credit report (by deleting the account), we can sue the debt buyer. We advance the expenses, and if we are successful, we take a contingency fee out of any recovery from the debt buyer. We only get paid if we win - there is never any out of pocket expense from you to us when we sue a debt buyer.

If You Are Being Sued and Want to Take Action - Call Us

Q. I want to discuss my case with you. What do I do? A. It's simple. Call Robert Heath at 850-502-2117.

* Free Consultation for most credit card cases and Insurance claims only.