A debt lawsuit is extremely stressful. It’s usually the first time the average person has ever been sued. It’s also one of the most common civil suits, accounting for nearly half of the civil court cases in America.
The consequences can be even more stressful. Creditors can easily garnish the wages or seize the assets of Orange County should they win the lawsuit.
And most people respond in exactly the wrong way.
Recognize the case probably isn’t as open and shut as you think.
A lot of times defendants don’t even show up in court. They think: well, I do owe the debt, so I probably can’t win. Why show up and be humiliated over it when I can’t do anything about it anyway?
This is the exact wrong mindset. It will lead to the judge issuing a summary judgement against you, and you’ll soon be left to grapple with a brand new set of financial problems.
In reality, a huge percentage of debt lawsuits come from companies who can’t even produce evidence that they have enough interest in the case to sue. In other words, they may be able to prove you owe money, but they can’t prove you owe it to them.
Debt buyers sell spreadsheets with names and numbers on them. They don’t bother passing on all the paperwork they’d need to pass on to make their interest stand up to a real challenge. Many buy and sell debts that are well past the statute of limitations for lawsuits, then call you up and trick you into making a payment so they can restart the statute. Then they sue.
They rely on the huge percentage of people who believe they are helpless, and they take advantage of it.
Get a lawyer immediately.
Once a process server stops by with your lawsuit paperwork you have a limited amount of time in which to respond. In Orange County, that’s just 20 days.
You get a little more leeway if you got served in some other way, such as by mail. But at that point, you still only have 30 days.
And responding incorrectly is as bad as not responding at all, so don’t make that mistake. Come and get help right away.
Be prepared to take next steps.
While it is certainly possible to win a debt collection lawsuit, nobody wins every suit. In the event you lose yours it’s smart to think about what you’ll do next.
In the State of New York someone who obtains a judgement against you can continue to collect for 20 years, or until the debt is paid off, whichever comes first. That’s a long time to stand in the shadow of any creditor.
If you lose, it might be a good idea to consider bankruptcy. It might even be a good idea to consider bankruptcy before the suit happens, allowing the automatic stay to stop it in its tracks, then allowing the bankruptcy court to discharge the debt entirely.
By the time anyone is serving you papers, you are probably in a position where it’s been advisable to do so for some time.
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