If you've been sued, you should have been served with documents explaining the lawsuit and telling you when it would be heard by a court. If you recently moved, however, the plaintiff might not have been able to find you to have you served with the documents.
The county clerk would have mailed you the results of the hearing if you did not attend, warning you of any liens or garnishments that were ordered. These results are a matter of public record so you'll be able to get a copy if you need one.
Credit Report Search
Under the rules of the Federal Trade Commission, you have the right to a free credit report each year. In addition to information about how you pay your bills, that credit report will also include information about judgments that have been levied against you. These are reported individually, however, so it may take some time for them to appear on your report.
Three types of judgments can appear on your credit report:
- Bankruptcy: A Chapter 13 bankruptcy will show for seven years and a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will show for 10 years from the time you file.
- Tax liens: These will show for seven years from the date you pay them, or 10 years if they remain unpaid.
- Civil Judgments: These include small claims court judgments, credit card company lawsuits, evictions and accident liability lawsuits.
Conduct a direct county search for a more thorough hunt for your records. Most counties allow you to search public records via their website. The other option is to go to the courthouse and request your records in person. Either way, make sure you run the search not only for your name but for your address as well. A judgment might have been recorded as a lien on your property.
Full Background Checks
For a more comprehensive background check, including all judgments, both criminal and civil, you can run a free background check through your State's Department of Justice website. The data reported there will only include judgments that occurred within that state's jurisdiction, however. If you want a more comprehensive report, you can consider hiring a background check company.
Should you decide to do this, keep in mind that only consumer reporting agencies are regulated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. CRAs not only maintain certain minimum standards, but they must offer dispute resolution if you find something in your report that you don't agree with. Make sure the company you hire checks with multiple sources because there is no requirement that all the agencies must update their records at the same time.
Consider setting up a Google Alert for anything published under your name. That way, you'll receive an email if any documents are filed with your name included in them.
Most lawsuits against you will be filed in your home county. The exceptions to this are criminal lawsuits and lawsuits related to car accidents or property disputes. All of these will be filed in the county in which the incident occurred. Follow up with your insurance company – and possibly an attorney – if you're involved in an accident while out of state because each state has different liability laws. As with local judgments, the courts should notify you of the results of any hearings that take place. If you don't receive any documents but you're worried that a lawsuit may have been filed, you'll be able to search via that county's website.