How to Handle a Debt Collection Summons | McCarthy Law
June 6, 2022

5 Tips on How to Handle a Debt Collection Summons

Debt is already a stressful issue to deal with, but a debt collection summons can be a startling reminder of your financial obligations. A summons is a court document that informs you that someone is suing you for a debt you owe, and it includes details on how to respond. As the defendant, it is up to you to decide how to handle the case against you. Making the wrong decision can put you in a difficult situation financially.

While handling legal and money matters can feel overwhelming, there are ways to deal with these things that can put you in the best position to handle the legal matter. To ensure the best outcome for your case, you should consult an experienced debt lawyer who can carefully examine your case and guide you through the best course of action. A knowledgeable debt lawyer is a valuable resource when handling a debt collection summons.

Respond to the Summons on Time

Don’t make the mistake of not responding to your summons on time. You will generally have between 14 to 30 days from the date you are served with the summons to file an answer with the court. Even if you cannot pay the debt you owe, you have options you can explore to resolve your debt in a way that works for you. 

By not responding, you’re allowing the collection agency to receive a default judgment against you, which permits the creditor to pursue other collection methods, such as wage garnishment. Missing a response deadline might have the same outcome as not responding, and you may not be able to fight the debt after a judgment is entered.

Dispute the Creditor’s Right to Sue You

A common strategy for defending against a debt collection summons is to challenge the plaintiff’s right to file a lawsuit against you. The entity that owns the debt is required by law to present proof that they have the legal right to sue you, so you can request documents to prove this in writing or possibly during a hearing.

It is common for a debt to be sold at least once by the time it reaches the point where a creditor is filing a lawsuit to try to recover. To prove their legal right to sue you, the plaintiff typically must produce a credit agreement and verify that their paperwork is valid and came from the original creditor. Without this documentation proving their legal right, the judge may dismiss their suit. 

Request Proof of What You Owe

One approach for handling your summons is to defend yourself by demanding proof of the exact amount you owe. In cases like this, the plaintiff bears a heavy burden of proof, which means they must prove a number of things to win their case, including that you owe a certain amount of money. When you ask for confirmation of what you owe, make sure to include documentation that dates back to the account’s inception and finishes with its most recent activity. 

The idea is to force the plaintiff to account for every dollar they claim you owe. Before a lawsuit occurs, accounts are typically sold a few times from entity to entity. As a result, all of the information associated with these accounts are not always readily available. Sometimes, creditors cannot produce proof about what you owe quickly enough, leading to the lawsuit being dismissed or a settlement being reached for a considerably lower amount.

Check Statute of Limitations for Your Case

Statutes of limitation vary by state and situation, but creditors typically have between three and six years to file a lawsuit to recover a debt. In Arizona, for example, a lawsuit cannot be filed after six years from the default for contracts in writing and credit cards or three years if the agreement was purely oral.

Because your statute of limitations period usually begins on the last day you were active on an account, making a payment can reset the clock on your debt. Some collection agencies go to great lengths to collect even a modest sum to extend the deadline and launch a lawsuit later.

Talk to the Experienced Debt Lawyers at McCarthy Law

Few people are equipped to handle debt settlement independently, and it can be overwhelming to attempt to do so. Fortunately, no one has to. Lawyers experienced in debt law and settlement are prepared to take the reins and guide you through your lawsuit to its best possible outcome.

Contact McCarthy Law to learn more about your options for moving forward in your debt collection case. Our lawyers have dedicated years to honing their skills in practicing debt law, so you can be confident that our firm is the best choice for your case. Call us at (855) 976-5777 or schedule a free legal consultation using our contact form.

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