For many people, being sued is a frightening thought. It is a confusing scenario that presents many questions and often seems much worse than it actually is.
One of the most common reasons to be sued for consumers involves debt. Credit card companies may sue for unpaid debt, which is why it is important to know what to do if you or a loved one are hit with one of these suits.
Why Might You Be Sued by a Credit Card Company in Florida?
Being sued by a credit card company is not typically the first response to a failure to repay debt. Rather, your creditor will usually begin by contacting you themselves. This may happen through letters, emails, or phone calls.
If this does not result in repayment, your creditor may then refer you to a debt collector and create a negative event on your credit report. Only after these avenues result in continuing failure to repay your debt will the escalation typically lead to a lawsuit.
What Will a Valid Suit Contain?
When you receive notification that you are being sued, your summons will usually include the following information:
- Details regarding who is suing you
- The amount of money you owe or are being sued for
- The date of your hearing
- Any co-plaintiffs or co-defendants involved, such as other cardholders on your account
- Information regarding how to formally respond to the suit
Be wary of any summons that does not make the aforementioned information clear.
Keep in mind that you cannot be sent to jail for failure to repay credit card debt. Some unscrupulous companies may try to threaten you with jail time or imply that this could happen if your debt is not repaid. If you encounter this type of threat or implication, you may have legal recourse under the FDCPA or Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
What to Do if You are Sued
So, what should you do if you are sued by a credit card company in Florida? The following steps will help you navigate the process:
Contact a Lawyer
Whenever a lawsuit is involved, your best bet is to start your response by contacting a legal professional. While it may be tempting to try to save yourself some money by forgoing this step, you will likely lose money in the long run without professional guidance.
Additionally, many lawyers offer a free initial consultation, making this step an obvious one if you aren’t sure what to do on your own. Contact your lawyer and advise them of every detail of the case so that they can help you begin preparing properly.
Determine Whether You Actually Owe
Before you hand over the amount you are being sued for or try to navigate the lawsuit in court, be sure that you actually owe the amount you are being sued for. There are many reasons why this might not be the case, including but not limited to:
- The statute of limitations for this debt has run out.
- You have already repaid this debt.
- This debt was accrued in a fraudulent manner or by someone other than yourself.
- Your identity is being mistaken with someone else’s.
- You have filed for bankruptcy or had the aforementioned debt discharged in bankruptcy.
Additionally, if the pursuant of the repayment has not abided by the FDCPA guidelines for fair debt collection, you may be entitled to countersue. Be sure to ask your lawyer about your options.
Try to Stop the Lawsuit
In addition to the issues mentioned above, you may have other avenues to stop the lawsuit. For example, many creditors are happy to negotiate a smaller amount as long as you contact them properly. This is not guaranteed, of course, but it is definitely something worth inquiring about. You may be able to work out a repayment plan or offer an amount that is a fraction of the original total.
Discuss Your Defense with Your Legal Counsel
If you do end up being sued for the total amount and do not reach an agreement with your creditor, your next step should be to discuss a defense with your lawyer. There may be additional information that could change the course of your legal proceedings, but you aren’t likely to know about it unless you discuss the details with your defense team. Be sure to disclose all relevant information, as this will help your lawyer better prepare for your defense.
Respond Appropriately to the Court Summons
Again, it may be tempting to just ignore debt collection efforts. But this won’t help you in the long run. After you are served the paperwork detailing the suit against you, you will typically have 30 days to respond. This will give you time to prepare and file your formal response, as well as adequate time to contact a lawyer.
If you fail to respond at all, your creditor receives an automatic win against you in court. If you have any hope to reduce the amount you owe or prevent that repayment from happening, ignoring your summons is the worst choice you can make.
Adhere to Court Proceeding Guidelines
Depending on how much you owe and what the details are surrounding your case, there may be numerous steps to your court proceedings. This may include discovery and the taking of depositions if there are contested details in your case. Be sure to adhere to all expectations and guidelines during these processes.
If you do not contest the suit or the amount you owe, your creditor may receive a judgment allowing them to proceed with collections without a trial. Whether this is a good idea for your individual situation is a matter that you should discuss with your counsel.
Let Us Help You if You are Sued by a Credit Card Company in Florida
Being sued by a credit card company in Florida is a stressful, confusing, and frustrating scenario. If you are dealing with this situation, you don’t have to go it alone. Let the knowledgeable, experienced team at the Van Horn Law Group help you navigate the entire process. We can advise you at every step, informing you of your best options and helping you make the choices that will get you there. Give us a call today to learn more!