Court Actions to Collect Debts

Your creditor or a debt collector (if your creditor has hired one) may file a lawsuit against you. Whichever one files the suit must be the one to serve you with a summons. The summons may say on the top that it is a “consumer credit transaction.” The creditor or debt collector will be called the “plaintiff” and you will be the “defendant” or the “debtor.”

If a creditor or debt collector sues you in court, do not ignore the court summons. Consult an attorney or seek out free legal resources. If you ignore the summons, the creditor can obtain a court decision, known as a default judgment, ordering you to pay the money owed. The creditor, or the debt collector, if there is one, may also be able to get an award of fees and interest charges in addition to the debt itself.

It is important to answer the complaint within the required time frame. If the summons was personally handed to you, you must respond within 20 days. If the summons was given to you by any other way, such as through the mail or left with someone else at your house, you must respond within 30 days. The way you respond to the summons is by submitting an “answer” to the court. The answer is where you explain to the court whether you agree or disagree with the plaintiff’s claims, and where you state any defenses to those claims.

Legal Editors: Steven Bennett and David Kassell, July 2015

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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