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I’ve been sued for debt. Now what?

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

Every day thousands of people across the state of Florida are sued for debt.  From Miami to Manatee County, from Duval to Orange and Hillsborough Counties and everywhere in between, thousands of debt collection cases are filed every week.  For many people who get sued, 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 possibly pay an old debt, plus the added interest and penalties, can all seem very intimidating.  It leaves many people asking, “now what?”  

What happens if I ignore the lawsuit?

Some people choose not to respond at all once they've been served with the initial legal paperwork.  This is probably the worst thing someone 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, the person being sued, 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 any interest and fees, 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 handle the lawsuit 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 themself, 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 that 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 one of the attorneys at Holland Law Group 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.  Regardless of whether you live in Pinellas County, Sarasota County, or any other county in Florida, Holland Law Group is available to help you.  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?

Todos los días, miles de personas en todo el estado de Florida son demandadas por deudas. Desde Miami al condado de Manatee, desde Duval hasta los condados de Orange y Hillsborough y en todos los lugares intermedios, cada semana se presentan miles de casos de cobro de deudas. Para muchas personas que son demandadas, quizás la mayoría, esta es la primera vez que están involucrados en una demanda. Darse cuenta de que tendrá que participar en un proceso legal, comparecer ante un tribunal, hablar ante un juez y posiblemente pagar una deuda antigua, más los intereses y las multas adicionales, puede parecer muy intimidante.  Deja a muchos preguntando, "¿ahora qué?"

¿Qué sucede si ignoro la demanda?

Algunas personas optan por no responder en absoluto una vez que se les ha entregado la documentación legal inicial. 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 una persona demandada 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 cualquier interés y multas, 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 ocupo de la demanda 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 uno de los abogados de Holland Law Group lo representa 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 los intereses de nuestros clientes estén protegidos. Usted no está solo en esto. Hemos solucionado miles de demandas por deudas con excelentes resultados para nuestros clientes. Sin importar si vive en el condado de Pinellas, el condado de Sarasota o cualquier otro condado de Florida, Holland Law Group está disponible para ayudarlo. 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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