What Happens If a Collection Agency Summons Me to Court?

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It’s been said that you can’t escape death and taxes, but there’s another relative certainty in life -- if you default on a loan and stop paying, the lender will inevitably sue you to collect the money. He might sell the debt to a collection agency instead, but then the collection agency can sue you. You’ll receive a summons and you may end up in court.

Answer the Summons

A summons is a short, one-page document that tells you how long you have to respond to defend yourself. It comes with a complaint or petition explaining the details of the lawsuit. You must usually file a written response with the court within about 20 to 30 days. You can make an argument in the response that you don’t owe the money, maybe because the amount is wrong. You may need the help of an attorney in formulating your argument. After you file your answer, you can appear in court to argue your case personally, and a representative for the collection agency can do the same. The judge will decide whether you owe the money. If you don’t respond to the lawsuit, the judge can and probably will give the collection agency a judgment for the full amount of money it asked for.

Work Out a Settlement

You can try negotiating a settlement or payment plan with the collection agency to avoid going to court. In fact, many judges will try to guide negotiations if you do go to court. Courts would typically rather see you settle than go to trial.