No one wants to be involved in a lawsuit, but if a creditor is suing you for an alleged debt that you owe, it is incredibly important to know what steps to take and how to effectively deal with the situation. As with any court proceeding, you essentially have three options in how you proceed:
- Do nothing, which will likely end with a default judgment against you.
- Defend yourself against the lawsuit
- Consult an experienced debt collection attorney
Deciding on which option best applies to your unique situation can be difficult, but regardless of the debt or the specifics, keep in mind that you have the right to defend yourself in court if a creditor sues you. However, before you make a final decision that could impact your financial well-being for a long time afterward, consider speaking with a knowledgeable attorney.
At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we assist people just like you every day, who are being sued by creditors. Let our Ohio debt collection lawyers help you weigh your options, which may include an outcome that lets you settle the matter without going to court.
You’ve Been Sued. Now What?
You received official notice—or complaint—from the court that a creditor has filed suit against you to collect a debt. Do not ignore this notice. This is an official communication from the court detailing the civil case against you. In Ohio, you have 28 days to respond and properly file your answer with the court.
Ignoring the complaint could lead to a default judgment, which is the court’s decision, relating to the rights and liabilities of each party in a legal action. A default judgment in a debtor-creditor case means the judge has said that yes, you indeed owe the amount of money alleged in the lawsuit. The court costs could also be added to the original debt in a default judgment.
You can draft your response yourself; however, an experienced debtor defense attorney knows exactly what needs to be included in your answer and what may persuade the court that a judgment in the creditor’s favor may not be in the interest of justice.
Available Debt Defenses
Debt cases may seem simple on the surface, but there are many ways to reduce or even eliminated alleged debts. By working with an experienced consumer attorney, you can assert many of the defenses available to those being sued for non-payment.
- Expired Statute of Limitations
Even though a debt itself doesn’t expire until you pay it, Ohio laws limit the amount of time during which a debt collector may take legal action to collect a debt. According to the Ohio Attorney General, statutes of limitation vary depending on the type of debt owed. A debtor defense attorney can advise you regarding what statutes of limitations apply to what debts.
- No Proof of Debt Owed
To sue you, the debt collector must have proof that you owe the debt in question and are therefore responsible for repaying it. This often becomes a problem for the creditor, or the plaintiff, in a lawsuit because chances are the debt has been sold at least once. And each time the debt is sold, the paper trail leading back to you shrinks. Finding out what the debt collector has to trace the debt back to its source can be tedious, requiring lots of patience and even more time.
- The Debt is Not Yours
This seems obvious, but if the debt isn’t yours, you don’t own it! Mistaken identity, identity theft, and even mistakes on the creditor or debt collector’s part can lead to you being sued for a debt that isn’t yours at all. Even if the debt isn’t yours, you still must answer the complaint filed against you.
- The Debt Was Discharged in Bankruptcy
Many times, debts are unlawfully pursued through the courts, even though they have previously been addressed and discharged in properly filed bankruptcy schedules. If it can be shown that the debt in question cannot be collected on because of a prior bankruptcy filing, you will not be help responsible. However, some debts like those taken out for federal student loans cannot be discharged, so even if you’ve declared bankruptcy and properly listed student loans, they can still be collected upon.
Sued by a Creditor? Contact an Ohio Debtor Defense Attorney
We understand that facing a debt collection lawsuit can be stressful –even embarrassing, but it is important to learn about all your options and protect yourself. Hiring a debtor defense attorney may not be beneficial in every circumstance, but even what seems like a small amount could end up costing you much more in time and money. This is especially true if you don’t respond to the complaint or if you proceed on your own and lose.
Contact a highly-skilled Ohio debtor defense attorney from LHA today. We may be able to help you get the relief you need. Call (888) 726-3181 or submit the details of your situation online to schedule a free, no-risk consultation.