The reason debt collectors file lawsuits is because they work. Nothing scares a person more than getting served with a lawsuit. There is this fear that if they don’t do anything they could get into serious trouble. Some people falsely believe that they could go to jail or face criminal charges because of the lawsuit.
The Debt Collectors do everything they can to stoke the flames of fear. They make misrepresentations about what can happen, they use extremely strong and inaccurate language to get people to meet their demands.
Knowledge is power, and when you don’t know the laws and rules, Debt Collectors will take advantage of you. They have zero concern about your life or personal issues, their job is to get as much money from you as they can, and they will use every tactic imaginable to do that.
Every case is different, but there are some universal rules that apply to all lawsuits in the State of Texas.
1. A creditor has to officially serve you with the lawsuit.
Simply calling you and telling you that you have been sued is not good enough. They must file a lawsuit and then they have to serve it on you. The most typical way to serve a lawsuit is to hire a process server to physically deliver the lawsuit papers.
In other situations, they may be able to serve you by mailing the lawsuit via certified mail. It’s always important to pick up certified mail as soon as possible because there could be important deadlines that you have to meet.
Remember, simply filing the lawsuit is not good enough, if they don’t serve the lawsuit then the case cannot continue and will ultimately be dismissed by the Court.
2. You can file a general denial in Texas.
In Texas, all you have to do to oppose the lawsuit is to file a general denial with the Court. A General denial is a simple statement ( can be 1 sentence) that you deny the claims filed against you. You always want to get an answer filed because at a minimum, it will get you more time to resolve the issue. After you file your answer the Court will put the matter on its trial docket and depending on how backed up they are, this could be months or even a year away. At this stage, getting more time is a big win for you, so always file an answer!
When you are served with the lawsuit, it will give you a timeline on filing an answer. In most cases you will have approximately 20 or 30 days to get a response filed.
3. Creditor’s have the burden to prove their case.
If it’s the original creditor, they are most likely going to be able to prove their case because all they need is a copy of the original contract signed by you. It gets more challenging when you are dealing with a debt collector, who purchased your debt from the original creditor. The debt collector has to establish that the debt exists, and that they are the legal owner of the debt. This second step requires more work.
Most debt collectors hire nationwide volume firms. What I mean by this is these firms handle thousands of cases per month and don’t pay as much attention to each specific case. Their entire business model relies on you not responding or fighting them. As a result, they often file sloppy paperwork and are not prepared to go to trial.
Use this to your advantage. File a response and let them know you plan on fighting the lawsuit. They are going to have to prove to the Judge that the debt exists and that they own the debt. In most cases, they may not even have the proper paperwork to establish that they own the debt and you could get the case dismissed.
4. Negotiate from a position of strength.
I have never met a debt collector who isn’t willing to accept less than what is owed. But you have to negotiate with them. I often go back and forth 5 to 10 times before I get a “good deal” with the debt collectors. This means I force them to reject my offer at least 5 times. They always start off saying “this is as low as we can go”, which is a lie. They can always go lower than the parameters, but you will never get there unless you negotiate and let them know you are serious about taking the matter to trial.
5. If they get a judgment against you, you can still negotiate.
I often have clients come to me when they have already had a judgment. I am still able to negotiate for less than the judgment amount. Don’t assume that once they have a judgment they won’t negotiate because they almost always will.
Most of us think hiring a lawyer will be too expensive so we try to deal with it ourselves. It never hurts to at least call a few lawyers. Most firms will offer a free consultation, so call them and find out what your options are. It’s not going to cost you anything and will at least give you more information to help you make a better decision.
If you want to discuss your financial situation in more detail you can call 469-607-8552 and set up your free financial strategy session (30 minutes). Also, if you decide to hire my law firm and mention this blog, you will receive a 10% discount on your fees.