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What to do if a creditor or debt collector sues you

What to do if a creditor or debt collector sues you

If you're sued by a debt collector, you should respond to the lawsuit. You can respond personally or through an attorney, but you must do so by the date specified in the court papers.

Tips on correspondence

When you respond or “answer” the lawsuit, the debt collector will have to prove to the court that the debt is valid and that you owe the debt. 

If you are sued, carefully read the lawsuit, and respond by any deadline. If you don’t respond, the court will likely issue a judgment against you as requested in the lawsuit. 

While you must be properly “served” with a lawsuit, you won’t be able to stop the lawsuit by refusing to accept delivery or “service” of the lawsuit. By doing these things you’ll essentially be ignoring the lawsuit and you could be considered by the court as being properly served.

If you ignore a court action, it's likely that a judgment will be entered against you for the amount the creditor or debt collector claims you owe. Often the court also will award additional fees against you to cover collections costs, interest, and attorney fees.  

Judgments give debt collectors much stronger tools to collect the debt from you. Depending on your situation and your state’s laws, the creditor may be able to:

  • Garnish your wages 
  • Place a lien against your property
  • Move to freeze or garnish all or part of the funds in your bank account

You also may lose the ability to dispute that you owe the debt if a court issues a judgment against you.

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