Failing to answer—or respond to—a summons in a credit card lawsuit typically leads to a judgment against the defendant. A judgment, which is also known as a monetary judgment, is the result of a lawsuit. A lawsuit in a credit card case alleges that you failed to make payment as agreed. Judgments require payment of the card balance plus court costs and attorney's fees.
Not answering or responding to a summons waives important legal rights. A small claims court may recognize a "motion to vacate," which—if approved—annuls a judgment awarded when a defendant fails to appear. Some people miss court dates for valid reasons, and the motion allows for a new trial date. That gives the defendant time to prepare a defense or pursue an out-of-court settlement. If you are named as a defendant in a credit card lawsuit and you fail to appear, the judgment by default favors the plaintiff.
Not answering the summons also forfeits rights, at least initially, to work out a payment plan. Explaining your financial situation to the judge could lead to a monthly payment plan that you can afford. Not appearing in court to plead your case may indicate that you are not serious about managing your debts, ending any chance of receiving sympathy and help from the judge.
Failing to answer also allows the credit card or debt collector to request garnishment of your wages or bank account. The request is made through the judge issuing the judgment, with approval virtually a certainty. In her review of the case while considering the garnishment request the judge will note that you failed to answer the summons. Wage garnishment forces employers to send a percentage of your paycheck to the debt collector or card company each payday. Bank garnishment allows the debt collector to freely withdraw money from your checking account until the debt is paid.
People facing credit card lawsuits should hire an experienced consumer affairs attorney. Granted, finding a few hundred dollars to pay an attorney is often challenging. However, adequate legal advice is important even if paying for it means selling some household goods or borrowing from friends and family. At a minimum a good attorney can offer advice on avoiding garnishment—or on settling cases out of court and completely avoiding judgments. An attorney may also represent you entirely in the case, including showing up for court hearings and speaking on your behalf.
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