If you are being sued by a debt collector for an old debt, there are five things you need to do immediately.
- Read the lawsuit; see who is suing you on this alleged debt. Don’t worry if you do not know who the Plaintiff is. It’s ok. The chances are very good that the Plaintiff who is suing you is not the same company that you may have incurred the debt with.
- You will have either twenty (20) or thirty (30) days to respond to the lawsuit or you will be required to appear in Court at a certain date and time. Your next step is determined by the dollar amount alleged in the complaint, for example, if you are being sued in a Florida small claims court, you will be required to appear for your hearing, or you can have an attorney to appear for you. If you are in County Court, (for an amount higher than the jurisdictional limits of Small Claims Court) or Circuit Court (more than $15,000.00) you will need to respond to the summons with the same type of response. Calendar your response date or Date of Appearance.
- If this is an old debt, you will need to determine if this debt was actually your debt. You would be surprised to learn how many people are wrongfully sued each and every day. If this is not your debt, skip right to section five. If this is your debt keep reading.
- If this is an old debt of yours, you will need to do some quick homework. In Florida, a creditor has five (5) years to file a lawsuit from the date of the breach of a written contract. I always interpret this to mean five (5) years and thirty (30) days from your last payment due date. I do this in an abundance of caution. I recently read a newspaper article where the non-lawyer columnist told readers. “under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, they (Creditor or debt collectors) cannot sue you for a debt that time-barred. While the columnist got close, she missed the mark. A debt collector can sue on a time-barred debt. The statute of limitations is an affirmative defense that must be raised by the Defendant (you). If you fail to respond to the lawsuit or raise the defense, it may be waived, and you may have a judgment entered against you.
- Go see an attorney experienced with consumer law or who sues debt collectors. Only an attorney who regularly practices consumer law, and one who regularly sues debt collectors will be experienced enough and equipped to handle this matter. He or she will need to do discovery in many issues; like how did this debt come into existence, was it properly transferred, if it really is your debt and whether the case needs to go to trial.