You have been sued. Now what?
Should you contact the other party? How do you deal with creditors? Do you need to be prepared to argue when you go to court? What happens if you don’t do anything? What are your rights?
Facing the unknowns that come with getting sued puts you in unfamiliar territory – especially when you don’t have anyone to answer your questions. It’s no wonder that getting served with a lawsuit leaves you asking yourself – should I hire an attorney?
Responding to a Lawsuit: Your Three Choices
Don’t panic. Although you may feel a sense of doom or as if life is not going your way, you do still have control. While, unfortunately, you don’t have the power to just dismiss the lawsuit, you can choose how you will respond to it. You have 3 choices.
1. Ignore it
Ignoring a lawsuit is usually not the best option. The summons you are served with will either give you a time and date to appear in court or give you a set amount of time to file an answer in response to the allegations listed in the complaint.
Once you have the summons in your hand, the ball is in your court. Not appearing at the hearing or not filing an answer means you are choosing to not defend your rights. A default judgment will be entered and signed by the judge.
A judgment opens up many other ways for the creditor to recover on your debt, including forceful actions as garnishments and levies.
2. Handle it Yourself
Your next choice is to handle it yourself. Will you show up to court and try to defend yourself? Will you write and file a formal answer
If you think you are up for the challenge, then you may choose to represent yourself without an attorney. The problem is, without knowledge of defenses or counterclaims, you could find that you are fighting a losing battle. Big creditors wanting to recover their losses don’t often have much mercy for an individual trying to handle his or her defense. Keep this in mind.
3. Have a Lawyer Represent You
Perhaps the best choice you can make would be to hire an attorney to represent you. This not only shows the plaintiff that you are serious about your defense but also ensures that your rights are protected throughout the entire process.
How an Attorney Can Help
When you aren’t well-versed in the legal process, getting sued can be scary. You may not understand the court’s procedures, what is expected, or how to even fight for your rights. Having a professional lead you through it can make a very big difference in how the case is handled and the outcome.
Determining Your Defense
There are several defenses you can use when you are fighting a case in court. While it may vary depending on the type of case, lawsuits from creditors may present you will defenses such as:
- The statute of limitations has expired.
- The plaintiff doesn’t have proper documentation to verify the debt.
- The debt isn’t yours.
An attorney can review the lawsuit and determine the best defense.
Negotiating a Settlement
Often, the plaintiff’s counsel has the authority to negotiate settlement terms before the hearing. If you know you owe the debt and you want to make things right, you may want to consider offering a settlement. This could be a lump sum amount or a payment arrangement. Though, it is worth noting that this may not always be the best route to take.
An attorney who has handled these cases before knows the tactics used in negotiating and red flags to look for. As a result, you end up in a better position to negotiate and with a better settlement offer.
Understanding Potential Outcomes
If you owe the money, but don’t feel there is anything you can do, you must understand the consequences of choosing to do nothing. Discussing your case with a debt lawsuit attorney will help you gain a clearer perspective – and help you understand why standing up for your rights is important for your future.
If someone has filed legal action against you, it is up to you to take the necessary steps to defend yourself. Regardless of the approach you take, it should always include an attorney.
If you are ready to protect your rights by hiring an attorney, contact Debt Legal Defense today.