If you’ve been sued on an old credit card or collection account. First of all, don’t panic.  Just because you’ve been sued, doesn’t mean you’ve lost.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t defend yourself, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t win. It just means that the process has started and you will have to participate in order to protect yourself and your interests.

Once you have been served (and if you have any doubts whether or not you have been served call a lawyer now), you will have at least 20 days from the date of service to file an answer. (This assumes that you have not been sued in small claims court where the procedure is very different and will be explained on the Small Claims Affidavit you were served with.) Although you are legally entitled to represent yourself, if you are reading this, you will probably want to hire a consumer law attorney who is experienced in defending collection cases.

If you don’t file an answer, a judgment will be taken against you.

Once a creditor has a judgment against you, that creditor can then start trying to collect on that judgment by garnishing your wages or levying on your bank account. The creditor can also use this Judgment to place a lien on any real estate you own, including your house.  It is definitely worth taking the time to try to find a way to prevent the creditor from getting a judgment in the first place.

If you do file an answer you will want to include as part of your answer any legitimate defenses you may have, as well as, any claims you may have against the party suing you.  These can range from things that happened while the account was active to consumer law violations committed during the collection process.  Filing an answer really starts the litigation process.  Once you have answered, in many cases, the case ceases to be a slam dunk for the debt collector.

An experienced consumer law attorney can help you identify defenses which can limit the creditor’s ability to obtain a judgment against you, and claims that you may have against the creditor which can result in the creditor having to pay you.

Before you call a consumer law attorney to represent you, you will want to have a couple of things handy.  First of all, you will want to have the papers you were served with in front of you.  Second, you will want to know who is suing you. Is it the original creditor, i.e., Discover, American Express or Capital One; or is it someone else.  Third, you will want to have a general idea of when the last time was that you used the card and approximately when the last payment was made.

Finally, give some thought to your overall financial picture.  Is this your only problem account or is it really one of many? Sometimes defending a collection lawsuit is the right choice.  Sometimes being sued on a debt is a wake up call that maybe a bankruptcy filing is really the right answer.

When you have given these things some thought, pick up the phone.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a free consultation.