Summons and Complaint
Just like everyone else, a credit card company must begin a lawsuit against you by serving you with a summons and complaint. The complaint is called a petition in some states. In this document, the company states why it is suing you. The summons orders you to respond to the complaint within a specified number of days. The company must serve you with copies of the documents by a method authorized under your state's law. A common method is by arranging for an adult to personally hand a copy of the documents to you. Some states permit credit card companies to serve by mail or publication in some cases.
Preparing an Answer
Many state courts offer fill-in-the-blank forms to use to answer a complaint. Look for one on your court's website. If not, you will have to type out the entire document. At the top, insert your name and address or your attorney's if you are represented. After that goes the same caption the company used in the complaint. This is the section at the top with the names of the people involved in the lawsuit and the court case number. In the body of the answer, you respond to each paragraph of the complaint by admitting it, denying it or stating that you don't have enough information to admit or deny it. If none of it is true, you can make a general denial of all allegations in some states.
Affirmative defenses cite legal problems with the complaint or the charges that could help you end the case. For example, if you stopped paying the credit card 20 years before the suit was filed, it is probably too late for the company to sue. You must make this claim in an affirmative defense. You'll have another affirmative defense if the credit card company did not serve the complaint on you according to state law. Talk to an attorney about affirmative defenses before you file your answer, since you'll waive some of them if you don't raise them immediately.
If your credit card added fraudulent or improper charges or you suffered any other damages at the company's hands, the counterclaim section of your answer is the place to bring it up. Under the last paragraph of the affirmative defenses, add "Counterclaims" as a heading. Then list the facts relevant to any issue you have with the credit card company in paragraph form. When you are done, sign and date the document.
Filing and Serving an Anwer
You must serve the answer on the credit card company attorneys, but you won't have to get anyone to hand-deliver the documents. Once a party has appeared in the action, you can simply mail a copy to the address listed in the papers. You'll still have to fill out a document called "Proof of Service" to tell the court who mailed your response and when. Then file the answer and proof of service with the court. Do this within the specific time frame set out in the summons. State laws vary but you usually have 20 to 30 days from the day you are served. Whether holidays and weekends are included depends on your state laws.
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