- File a WRITTEN REPLY to the lawsuit with the Clerk of the Court. The summons typically says that an “appropriate response” must be issued within 30 days. What does that mean? (No, calling up the plaintiff’s attorney office and giving them a piece of your mind is not enough.) What this means is that you must file awritten reply, you must sign the reply, and it file it with the Clerk of the Court within 30 days.
- A standard reply form is usually provided by the Clerk of the Court. (Here is a link to the Appearance & General Denial form.) Write your name, address, phone number, the case number and then sign the form. Have the Clerk of the Court then file your response in the court record. You should also mail a copy to the creditor’s attorney. An even better response form is found here.
- Demand an Accounting. Send the attorney for the creditor a letter to demand a list of all the payments and charges to your account.
- Request for Production of Documents. Request all the documents relevant to the case, including the contract, billing statements, correspondence, etc. Many creditors, especially credit card debt buyers, do not have the documents to prove you owe the debt.
- Affirmative Defenses: You may want to assert certain affirmative defenses, such as the Statute of Limitations which bars claims that are too old. In Nebraska the Statute of Limitations on a written contract is typically 5 years from the date of last payment and 4 years for an oral contract.
- Countersuit: Perhaps you have a claim against the creditor. If the doctor suing for unpaid medical bills committed malpractice, you should ask the court to give you compensation for the damages caused.
- Seek Legal Advice: Ask an attorney review your written reply. Believe it or not, most attorneys are really nice people and they don’t mind taking a quick look at what you have written.
- Negotiate the Debt. One of the main benefits to filing a written response to a lawsuit is that it makes the creditor more willing to negotiate the debt. Contact the creditor’s attorney (here is a link to find the attorney’s phone and email address) and make an offer. Most creditors will accept a reasonable settlement offer.
Failure to respond to a court summons within the time allows will result in the creditor obtaining a “default judgment.” A bill collector that obtains a Default Judgment has the power to garnish up to 25% of your paycheck and all of the money in your bank account. Filing a written response with the Court will prevent a Default Judgment from being entered.