What to do If You’ve Been Sued by the Bank
As if being in debt isn’t enough of a stressor already, now you’ve learned that you’ve been sued by the bank! As tempting as it may be to ignore the lawsuit, don’t. Doing so will very likely lead to a default judgment being entered against you. Default judgments, as you may know, can grant your bank permission to garnish your wages and your bank accounts.
Because navigating through the trial process can be a very scary and complicated experience, many people choose to hire an attorney to represent them in the matter. Before you do so, however, it is important that you know a little bit about how a civil action proceeds.
The Importance of Filing a Timely Answer or Response
Once you’ve been served with a summons and complaint, you will have a certain number of days in order to craft your response. Typically a lawsuit requires that the defendant (you) file a response with the court within 20 days from the date you were served with a summons and complaint. Depending on the State you’re in, it may be as long as 30 days to respond. But you should never assume you have that much time. In fact, you should consult with a lawyer immediately upon being served to protect your rights. Not responding to the complaint in time is like not showing up for court and will result in a default judgment being entered against you. For this reason, it is crucial that you pay close attention to the deadline listed on the summons for your response.
Your Options When Responding to the Bank that Sued You:
1. File an answer.
An answer is your chance to respond to the factual allegations and legal claims contained in the complaint. In addition, you may raise any affirmative defenses you may have in your answer. An affirmative defense, if successful, could limit or exclude your civil liability. Filing an answer that provides a good strategic defense is crucial. It is very difficult for a non-lawyer to do this well. Not doing it well can forfeit your rights.
2. File a motion to dismiss or demurrer.
There are a variety of reasons that you may file a motion to dismiss. For instance, if you were never served with the summons and complaint you could file a motion to dismiss for Insufficiency of Service of Process. Filing a motion to dismiss a lawsuit may not, however, get rid of the lawsuit forever, but rather bides time until you must file an answer.
3. Do nothing.
Keep in mind that if you do choose to do nothing, the bank’s attorneys will apply to the court for a default judgment, which could include you having to pay the attorneys’ fees and costs for the bank’s lawyers. Upon receiving a judgment, the bank can then garnish your wages, bank accounts, attach liens to property you may own, etc. In other words, you should absolutely not ignore a lawsuit.
Note that this list is not meant to be exhaustive and is only meant to give a general idea of some of your options when responding to a lawsuit. Nor is it specific legal advice. If you’ve been sued by a bank, your best course of action is to consult with an attorney who can evaluate your case and may even be able to help you settle the case out of court.
General Rules When Filing Documents at the Court:
• When you file your response, you’ll need to be prepared to pay a filing fee with the court clerk.
• Make sure you bring the original plus at least two copies of your documents, because the court will keep the original.
• Some courts have local rules for filing. Ask the court clerk while you’re there if any special rules apply to your case. (Alternatively, most courts list their local rules on their websites.)
• Pay attention to the court’s hours – if you’re even a minute after the court closes you will not be allowed to file, which can have serious consequences if it’s your last day to file before the deadline.
• Also keep in mind that normal courtroom etiquette applies – dress appropriately.
• Any time you file a document with the court, you’ll need to provide the plaintiff (bank) with a copy of the document – this is known as service of process.
What Happens Next?
What happens next depends in large part on what kind of response you filed. If you haven’t already, this is a good time to consult an attorney with experience defending these kinds of bank lawsuits, who can at the very least provide you with some more specific advice on how to proceed. The attorneys at McCarthy Law have years of bank credit defense experience and are happy to help you through this process. Contact us today for a free consultation with one of our lawyers.