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I’ve been sued for debt. Now what?

Posted by J. Nicholas Castellanos | May 25, 2021 | 0 Comments

Thousands of people are sued every day for debt.  For many, perhaps most, this is the first time they have ever been involved in a lawsuit.  The realization that you will have to participate in a legal process, appear in court, speak before a judge, and pay an old debt (that has undoubtedly grown in interest and penalties) can all seem very unsettling.  It leaves many Defendants asking, “now what?”  

What happens if I've been served with a lawsuit and I ignore it?

Some people choose not to respond at all.  This is probably the worst thing a Defendant can do.  If the case requires that the parties appear before the court at what is called a “PreTrial Conference” the date for that appearance will be indicated in the Summons.  If a Defendant does not appear that day, the court will decide in favor of the Plaintiff.  If the case requires that the Defendant respond to Plaintiff's Complaint in writing within 20 days, and this deadline is missed, the court will decide in favor of the Plaintiff.  This decision in favor of the Plaintiff will be a “Default Judgment” which states that the Defendant owes the full amount sought, plus court costs.  The Plaintiff, now a “Judgment Creditor,” can begin its efforts to collect the money from the Defendant by garnishing wages, freezing bank accounts, and putting liens on certain property.  Even if at the time the Defendant has no wages to garnish and no bank account to freeze, one should keep in mind that judgments in Florida last for 20 years, grow with interest, and will negatively affect credit scores.

What happens if I've been served with a lawsuit and I handle it on my own?

It's important to remember that civil litigation is a technical process, and although one doesn't have to be a lawyer to represent oneself, it's a sure thing that the debt collector will be represented by well-trained lawyers.  When either appearing in court or responding in writing, you are dealing with a court of law that is regulated by rules of procedure.  Telling the court, you don't understand the details of the lawsuit, or don't have the means to pay the debt, is not a legal defense.  The most common results when Defendants attend to these lawsuits “pro se” (representing themselves) are that they will either submit to a judgment against them or enter a plan to pay the full amount to the Plaintiff.  Neither of these options takes advantage of the defenses that may be available.

Why should I retain a lawyer?

When we represent you in your case, it is our goal to save you time, frustration, and money.  We identify and raise legal defenses, challenge the Plaintiff to actually prove their case, and ensure that your interests are protected.  You're not alone in this.  We have resolved thousands of debt lawsuits with great results for our clients.  If you've been sued for debt, and you are asking yourself “what now,” contact the Holland Law Group for your free consult to discuss your options. 

Me han demandado por deudas. ¿Ahora que?

Miles de personas son demandadas todos los días por deudas. Para muchos, quizás la mayoría, esta es la primera vez que se ven involucrados en una demanda. Darse cuenta de que tendrá que participar en un proceso legal, comparecer ante un tribunal, hablar ante un juez y pagar una deuda antigua (que sin duda ha aumentado en intereses y multas) puede parecer muy inquietante. Deja a muchos Demandados preguntando, "¿ahora qué?"

¿Qué sucede si me han entregado una demanda y la ignoro?

Algunas personas optan por no responder. Esto es probablemente lo peor que puede hacer un Demandado. Si el caso requiere que las partes comparezcan ante el tribunal en lo que se llama un "PreTrial Conference" (Conferencia Previa a Juicio), la fecha de esa comparecencia inicial se indicará en el “Summons” (la Citación). Si un Demandado no se presenta ese día, el tribunal decidirá a favor del Demandante. Si el caso requiere que el Demandado responda a la Demanda por escrito dentro de los 20 días y no se cumple este plazo, el tribunal decidirá a favor del Demandante. Esta decisión a favor del Demandante será un “Default Judgment” (Fallo por Incumplimiento) que establece que el Demandado debe la cantidad total solicitada, más los costos judiciales. El Demandante, ahora un "Judgment Creditor" (acreedor judicial), puede comenzar sus esfuerzos para cobrar el dinero del Demandado embargando salarios, congelando cuentas bancarias, y poniendo gravámenes sobre ciertas propiedades. Incluso, si en ese momento el Demandado no tiene salario que embargar ni cuenta bancaria que congelar, se debe tener en cuenta que los fallos en Florida duran 20 años, aumentan con los intereses y afectarán negativamente el puntaje de crédito.

¿Qué sucede si me han presentado una demanda y la manejo por mi cuenta?

Es importante recordar que el litigio civil es un proceso técnico y, aunque no es necesario ser abogado para representarse a sí mismo, es seguro que el cobrador de deudas (Demandante) estará representado por abogados bien capacitados. Al comparecer ante el tribunal o responder por escrito, estará ante un tribunal de justicia regulado por reglas de procedimiento. Decirle al tribunal que no comprende los detalles de la demanda o que no tiene los medios para pagar la deuda no es una defensa legal. Los resultados más comunes cuando los Demandados atienden estas demandas “pro se” (representándose a sí mismos) son que se someterán a un fallo en su contra o ingresarán en un plan para pagar el monto total al Demandante. Ninguna de estas opciones aprovecha las defensas que puedan estar disponibles.

¿Por qué debería contratar a un abogado?

Cuando lo representamos en su caso, nuestro objetivo es ahorrarle tiempo, frustración, y dinero. Identificamos y planteamos defensas legales, desafiamos al Demandante para que pruebe su caso y nos aseguramos de que sus intereses estén protegidos. Usted no está solo en esto. Hemos resolucionado miles de demandas por deudas con excelentes resultados para nuestros clientes. Si ha sido demandado por deudas y se está preguntando "¿ahora qué?" ​​comuníquese con Holland Law Group para obtener una consulta gratuita para analizar sus opciones.

About the Author

J. Nicholas Castellanos

Nicholas Castellanos is from Stuart, FL, and after receiving his J.D. from the University of Stetson, he continued to study law in Switzerland. In Europe he worked with attorneys in many countries on an array of issues including international class actions and mass-torts, financial claims, produ...

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