Most bad debt is written off by credit card companies due to the time and cost it takes to sue debtors, particularly those who lack resources. However, credit card companies have been known to bundle up accounts and send them to assigned attorneys around the country to file suit in recouping some of their losses. What do you do if your account is included in one of those bundles?
File an Answer
If you are served with a summons and complaint filed by an attorney representing a credit card company, you need to act immediately. Read the summons and see how much time you have to file an answer. Hiring a consumer law attorney is highly recommended, but if you cannot afford one -- after all, you are being sued because you can't pay your bills -- you can file an answer and even a counter-claim on your own. You can contact your local clerk of court office for a standard answer form. Go through the complaint and respond to each claim by admitting or denying what is stated. If you state that you deny any portion of the complaint, such as the balance owed, demand proof. Be sure to have the docket number on your answer, file it with the clerk's office and have a copy served on the credit card company's attorney. The address is located on the summons and complaint. If you have any questions about this process, seek legal advice.
Filing a Counter-Claim
A counter-claim can also be filed and served on the credit card company's attorney. A counter-claim is a document filed that in essence states you are suing the credit card company. If the credit card company has violated any laws such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act or this is a false claim against you, you may file a counter-claim. It is highly recommended that you hire an attorney to file a counter-claim. Legal counsel will be more familiar with the laws and be able to argue your side more effectively before the judge and opposing counsel.
Negotiate a Payment Plan or Accept the Court's Ruling
If this account is yours and you do owe the credit card company, you can contact the attorney's office on the summons and attempt to negotiate a payment plan. Credit card companies would prefer to receive payments than to have a judgment that may take years to collect, if at all. If the attorney accepts payment arrangements, and you fail to keep up the payments as agreed, they can renew legal action.
Another option would be to accept the court's ruling. If you do not respond to the summons and complaint served, a default judgment may be filed against you. If a judgment is filed against you, whether it's by default (not responding) or if the judge determines you do owe this debt, this will not only cause your credit score to plummet, but you could also have assets seized and sold by the sheriff's department and applied to your judgment balance. Depending on your state's laws, your wages could be garnisheed to satisfy your debt.
It's possible the judge may dismiss the case due to the credit card company's lack of evidence in proving you owe the debt or a violation of law. Seek legal advice for specific laws in your state.
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