What to Expect: Collection Defense
Litigation basically occurs in three stages. First, there is the pleading stage. This is when the parties are setting out their claims against each other. Once you have filed your answer, this stage is pretty much over.
Then comes the discovery stage. Discovery is the term for a process of asking for information. Generally, discovery starts when one party sends to the other a set of written discovery requests. These will include questions to be answered, when was the last time you made a payment on this account? Discovery also generally includes requests for documents. You will probably ask for the party suing you for a copy of the original account application and the terms of the account.
Once written questions have been answered and documents exchanged, then sometimes one party will request to depose the other party or a witness expected to testify for the other party. A deposition, as this is called, is very much like courtroom testimony only it is held in a conference room and is considerably less formal. Depositions provide an opportunity to find out exactly how the other side’s witnesses will testify. This is where you ask questions more complicated than the ones generally asked in written discovery requests. If you are going to be deposed, your attorney will spend time beforehand preparing you so you will know exactly what to expect.
The third stage is the trial stage. Once discovery is over with, then you begin serious preparation for trial. Your lawyer will be doing a lot of paperwork, preparing exhibits for use at trial, working with witnesses, and researching areas of law that may be in dispute. Once this is over with you can expect your trial. Most collection cases are tried in a half day. A few go a whole day or even longer. Your case may be tried to a jury or to a Judge. That is something you and your attorney will decide early on.
The purpose of a trial is to decide if the party who brought the lawsuit in the first place has met its burden of proving that you owe the money requested in the original Petition. The Court will also determine if your defenses are sufficient to prevent the creditor from collecting that money from you, and if you have raised claims of your own against the party who sued you, whether or not you have proven that you are entitled to collect money from the other side. Finally, in most collection cases in Oklahoma the Judge will assess attorneys fees and costs against the losing party. This means that the loser will wind up paying all the costs of the trial and both sides’ lawyers.