The number of small claims and county court lawsuits collecting debts is rising steadily now that widespread vaccinations have gotten the pandemic more under control and the economy is rebounding. Many people during the height of the coronavirus pandemic just did not have the funds to pay their credit card or medical debt, and they fell behind to their creditors — but the creditors weren't really doing anything about it. But there always comes a time when the piper needs to be paid. Now, it’s that time for many Americans.
When the lawsuit comes from a creditor who is demanding that you pay your debt, what are your next steps? Do you respond to the lawsuit, or do you ignore it?
First, I, Attorney Carmen Dellutri, cannot advise you to ignore a lawsuit. That would be malpractice in and of itself, also known as malpractice per se. You will never hear me tell anyone to ignore a lawsuit for that reason and also because it is just a bad idea.
Once you are served, before you ever read the lawsuit, you need to know if you were served properly. Florida Statutes Chapter 48 deals with process and service of process, which means that there is a specific way that lawsuits must be served on individuals in Florida. For anyone who recently received a lawsuit, I would highly recommend that they go and read that statute.
Many times, service is perfected appropriately. But when we talk to clients and find out that service was not effectuated appropriately, it might be possible to quash service entirely by filing a motion with the court, stating that the Plaintiff did not serve the papers properly. (That is a topic for a completely separate blog, though, so be sure to visit my firm’s blog frequently. I’ve reached out to our process server and asked him to write a book on his service of process stories, but he has yet to do so. Once he does, I will gladly share that with our readers.)
Let’s assume that you were served with a lawsuit properly, your second step is to read the lawsuit. Once you were done reading it, read it again. A second reading is always better than the first. I’ve been practicing law for 25 years, and I have read hundreds, if not thousands of lawsuits, and I always read each lawsuit twice just to make sure that the factual allegations, the cause(s) of action alleged, and what the plaintiff is really asking for sinks in. All three of those elements are very important in any lawsuit.
How to Respond to the Lawsuit
At this point, you may be thinking that an attorney is going to cost you a lot of money. Also, you may be thinking that you owe the money so why not just pay it or try to make a deal for a lower amount on your own. Both of these thoughts have merit, but you may be leaving other options on the table and probably haven’t considered them yet.
If you have no expectations of responding to the lawsuit and are just going to ignore it, you can stop reading now. I respect your decision. But I must say that you are probably leaving options on the table that you have not considered because you don’t know about them. For those of you who want to respond to the lawsuit, there are several different ways to do it.
You can respond to a lawsuit in these ways:
- You can go on the Internet and try to find responses to copy – but you should not do this. People who do this are usually trying to save money because they think they cannot afford an attorney. Obviously, this is a very bad idea. I’m not saying that because I am an attorney just trying to get a new client. I’m saying it because people do it all day long and it is usually to their detriment.
- You can take advantage of the offer made by many consumer protection attorneys, such as the attorneys at my firm. Most consumer protection attorneys offer a free consultation. We call our offer a complimentary strategy session. We believe that our consultations are different because we lay out all the options for individuals and discuss the strategy behind each. Additionally, we are a full-service consumer protection and consumer bankruptcy firm. We are always looking for strategic advantages for our clients to use. We are always looking for ways to shift the attorney’s fees to the other side. We are always looking for ways to help our clients win at the least possible cost.
When the consumer knows all of their available options, the cost of each option, the timeframe of each option, and considers what’s in the best interest of the family, they will make better financial decisions for their family. If you have recently been served with a lawsuit – small claims, county court, or circuit court – please feel free to reach out to The Dellutri Law Group and request a complimentary strategy session. It usually takes about 30 minutes, and I believe that you will find a significant value. I promise you it will not be a 30-minute sales pitch. We will listen to you, provide options to you, and answer all of your questions.