You thought you had escaped that lingering debt and you were minding your own business when wham—you were served with a lawsuit. Being sued for an outstanding debt is a scary issue and one that should not be taken lightly. First and foremost, DO NOT ignore the petition. I cannot tell you how many times clients have come to me when their answer deadline has already passed because they thought they could stick their head in the sand, ignore it, and it would go away. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but this issue is not going to go away. So, if you leave here with anything, the best advice that I can give is to contact an attorney as soon as possible after you are served. The sooner you can review your options with an attorney, the better. That is, there is a specific timeline for your answer period—meaning, you have a deadline by which you have to respond to this lawsuit. That deadline will depend upon which type of court you are sued in. Typically, creditors file their lawsuits in JP Court or County Court at Law. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure differ between these two courts and the rules applying to debt collection cases have changed drastically over the past couple of years. One thing remains certain, though. If you fail to answer the lawsuit and ignore it the creditor will get a default judgment on you. This means that the debt is now a judgment and the creditor can then file that judgment and start garnishing certain things under the law or seize certain property. It probably goes without saying that you want to avoid this.
The second best piece of advice that I can give is to definitely not go through this process alone. In addition to answering the lawsuit, there might also be discovery to answer and other legal avenues that would need to be navigated throughout the case. Attorneys who practice in debt collection are specifically qualified to represent you during this difficult time to ensure that your rights are protected. In some situations, the debt could be avoided all together. Those cases are becoming few and far between as the laws change. However, you might be able to reach a very reasonable settlement agreement with the creditor and avoid court. One thing that is pretty much a guarantee—you will not avoid court if you go this alone. Creditors are notorious for not dealing with the actual debtor directly. That is not to say an attorney can make any promises. Rather, based upon previous experience almost all of my clients have said that they tried to speak directly with the representative for the creditor and that they were treated poorly and not taken seriously.
Let’s recap—if you have been sued by a creditor, what do you do? You call an attorney and schedule a consultation. Decide which attorney to hire and do it quickly so that all pending deadlines can be met in a timely manner. Do not wait until after your answer period. It will most likely be too late to save you. Do not wait until the day before your scheduled court date. It should also probably go without saying that this also is too late. The last piece of advice that I have is to stop, pause, and take a deep breath. You will get through this valley. Contact Courtney Repka Wortham, PLLC today to schedule your consultation. We are ready to help.
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Courtney Repka Wortham is an experienced attorney who has the knowledge to answer the most pressing and frequently asked legal questions.