What to do When Facing a Debt Collector in Court
Debt collectors buy "charged off" debts from credit card companies. They purchase huge amounts of consumer debts from MA residents and attempt to collect on them regularly, sometimes going as far as filing a lawsuit, which can be both unsettling and unnerving; spurring stress, anxiety and sometimes fear.
But before you just react, pick up the phone and cave in to their list of demands, or worse, respond to the lawsuit without research or proper legal representation, it's best to put together a solid plan of action. Winning is an option.
Answer the Complaint
If you plan to attend the proceedings, there is simply no other option. An Answer is your response to the Summons, which contains the Complaint. In MA, the defendant has twenty days from the date of your acknowledgment of the lawsuit to respond. Typically, the Answer consists of two documents.
If you fail to file an Answer in the time allotted (lest you file an extension with the court), it's the same as admitting the allegations against you are true, and the collector wins a default judgment. Which is far worse than the lawsuit that was filed. A default judgment gives the collector the power to issue a garnishments on your paycheck and put a levy on your bank account, effectively freezing your money until specific amounts are satisfied, as decided by the judge. Answering the Complaint is priority number 1. However, if you are uncertain as to how to answer the Complaint effectively, contacting an attorney for legal advice and representation is your route.
Know the Rules
If you plan to self-represent in court, which you have every right to do, remember that the court will hold you to the same standards that the lawyers for Midland Funding are held to. This process can be daunting and a difficult for someone who hasn't been exposed to the law or legal proceedings like a lawyer has. However, if you do plan to go it alone, here is what you're going to need to be familiar with: MA laws on civil procedure.
Although you may have to go to the court house a few times before for a pre-trial, showing up to the trial itself is paramount to a successful defense. At the pre-trial, or mediation, debt collectors will often bring any relevant paperwork with them to present to the court, a tactic to try to get you to settle. You have the right to deny what they present, and if the judge agrees, a trial date will be set. Again, showing up to the trial is the key to winning, because the alternative is default. The burden of proof always lies with the plaintiff, you simply must defend. Which is why arming yourself with the facts of the case to counter their arguments, and having a skilled lawyer at your side, will help you defend effectively.
Don't be a Victim
Debt collectors often use bullying tactics to scare you into paying. Getting you to settle out of court by telling you that you don't have a chance at winning helps them not have to spend any more money on you than they have to, and that is what they want: an easy victim. Someone who gives in to being bullied.
The truth is that debt collectors are sometimes legally unprepared in court. They often don't have much information on the account in question, save for what they sent as evidence along with the lawsuit, and anything that you may have said to them, and often make unsubstantiated claims that what they do have will win a judgment in their favor. This is simply not true. They use this sort of angle to get you to bend under the fear they try to instill. Remember, just because they file a lawsuit against you, doesn't mean they automatically have won. Know your rights.
If you are facing a lawsuit from debt collector, and want to talk about the options you have to get your finances back in order, contact us immediately for consultation.