The last thing you want is to be served with a summons claiming you owe a debt in Delaware. The prospect of contesting the lawsuit in Court can be overwhelming, and you may feel scared and uncertain about your path forward. But options are available to you, and with the right help, you can fight back against these claims.
In Delaware, certain procedures must be followed to respond to a summons for debt collection. This guide provides helpful information on what needs to be done to respond to such a summons appropriately.
Answering a Debt Collection Summons in Delaware
Fifteen days: After being served a Summons and Complaint, individuals have only 15 days to file an Answer with the Court. This is a critical deadline that cannot be missed.
The importance of responding to a debt collection lawsuit within the 15-day deadline cannot be overstated. Why? Because failing to do so may result in the Court entering a judgment against you. This means that the debt collection company would be awarded the amount they allege you owe, plus court costs and any other relief they request as part of the judgment. Consequently, you could end up owing much more than the original debt.
The Bill of Particulars Process
A Bill of Particulars is a document that contains detailed information about the debt. It is typically used in debt collection cases and must be served by the Plaintiff within 15 days of the date of mailing. The Bill of Particulars form (CF10BP) is available from the Court. A plaintiff must serve the Bill of Particulars by:
- Mailing the original copy of the Bill of Particulars to the Court where the action is pending, along with a notarized statement of how the Bill of Particulars was served on the defendant.
- Mailing a copy to you, the defendant.
A written statement of particulars is required to itemize and justify the claim and show how the amount owed was calculated.
A motion to compel can be filed with the Court when a plaintiff fails to meet specific requirements. This motion must be filed within five days of when the Bill of Particulars was supposed to be served.
Delaware Filing Fees
You don’t have to pay a filing fee to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in Delaware. You must mail an Answer to the Court within 15 days of getting the summons.
Filing a counterclaim or third-party claim will come with a filing fee. In Delaware, the cost to file a counterclaim is $300. The same goes for third-party claims in Delaware – both are charged at the same rate as filing a new case.
Response to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Delaware
It can be pretty daunting to be sued by a debt collection company. You may feel anxious and overwhelmed at the thought of going to Court against a large organization. However, it is essential to be proactive and respond to the summons.
Ignoring the summons is not recommended, as it will lead to a default judgment against you. This means that the debt collection company will have more control over your finances and could initiate wage garnishment or other adverse actions.
So, here are the steps you need to take to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in Delaware.
1. Provide an answer
First, you must open up a document and title it “Answer.” In this document, you will respond to whatever Complaint has been filed against you. Make sure to include all relevant case information in your Answer.
Gather all of the information that’s in the Complaint and Summons and add it to your Answer, including:
- Your name, address, and other pertinent personal information
- Information on the Plaintiff. That is, the company suing you and their attorney representing them.
- The name of the Court that the case is in in the State of Indiana, the address of the Court, etc.
- Identifying information: the case number, index number, civil number, or whatever the Court uses to determine your case
- The amount of the lawsuit
- Other relevant case information
The Court can use this information to figure out which case the document is referring to.
2. Choose how you want to respond to the complaint
In the Answer, you respond to every paragraph in the Complaint. You can choose one of three options:
- Admit — Choose Admit if you agree with everything in the paragraph.
- Deny — Choose Deny if you disagree with something in the paragraph.
- I Don’t Know — Yes, this is a legit option. Choose “I don’t know” if you don’t have enough information to admit or deny the allegation in the paragraph.
You can also request a jury trial and a Bill of Particulars from the debt collector. A Bill of Particulars is a document that outlines the proof that you owe the debt. Often, requesting this document will result in the debt collector needing to provide concrete evidence.
3. Please mail the answer form
It is crucial that the Answer form is completed and mailed within 15 days of being served with the summons. This is because the Court could enter a default judgment against the person who should not receive a copy of the Answer in time. To avoid this outcome, be sure to fill out and mail the Answer form within 15 days from the date the Complaint was served.
4. Answers should be mailed
It may be beneficial to file a counterclaim against the Plaintiff based on the facts of your case. A counterclaim can be filed when there is evidence that the Plaintiff owes you money instead of the other way around. For example, compensatory damages may be pursued by the debt collection company, and harassment or threats by the debt collector. Keep in mind a counterclaim needs to be filed at least five days before trial (excluding holidays and weekends).
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5. The research on affirmative defenses
When you are sued for debt collection, knowing what affirmative defenses may apply to your case is essential. Some common affirmative defenses used in debt collection lawsuits include:
- Wrong Defendant – You may be facing a lawsuit from a debt collection company, but don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many people are sued by these companies each year, and most of them win their cases.
- Satisfaction – this affirmative defense states that the amount owed has already been paid.
- Statute of Limitations Expired – The statute of limitations is a powerful defense against debt collectors. Raising the statute of limitations can be very effective when a debt collector is trying to collect on an old debt. It is essential to affirmatively raise the statute of limitations as a defense because a court will not know whether the statute of limitations has expired when the debt collection company files its lawsuit against you.
Delaware’s Statute of Limitations on Debt
The statute of limitations is an essential factor when dealing with unpaid debts. This is because the amount of time a debt collector has to take legal action against you for an outstanding debt is limited. Once the statute of limitations expires, a debt collector will generally not be able to pursue a lawsuit against you in Court. However, this does not mean a lawsuit cannot be filed against you. Instead, if a debt collector files a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, you can raise this issue as an affirmative defense.
Delaware has a three-year statute of limitations on most types of debt. You have three years from your last missed payment to take legal action.
Delaware Legal Aid Organizations
Some organizations can help you defend yourself in a debt collection lawsuit in Delaware, usually at little to no cost. These organizations include:
Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.
CLASI offers civil legal assistance to Delaware residents who have low incomes, and disabilities and who are 60 years of age or older.
100 W. 10th Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
Delaware Volunteer Legal Services
DVLS consists of volunteer attorneys who provide legal assistance to low-income individuals.
100 West 10th Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
Legal Services Corporation of Delaware, Inc.
LSCDI offers legal assistance to low-income individuals in civil matters such as bankruptcy petitions and advice, consumer problems, housing problems, and unemployment benefits.
4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE 19803
Limited Legal Assistance Program
The LLAP is coordinated through the Administrative Office of the Courts and is sponsored by the Delaware State Courts, the Delaware State Bar Association, Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, Inc., Community Legal Aid Society, Inc., Legal Services Corporation of Delaware, Inc., Widener University School of Law, and the Delaware Paralegal Association.
Court locations in Delaware
The Delaware court system is made up of three different types of Court: the New Castle County Court, the Kent County Court, and the Sussex County Court. Every kind of Court has its jurisdiction over different legal matters. This means that it is essential to understand which Court a debt collection agency has filed a lawsuit in to ensure that the case is being dealt with correctly.
The Justice of the Peace Court is the starting point for resolving civil disputes. This Court can hear cases where the amount in controversy is less than $15,000.
For disputes involving more money, the Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction. This Court can hear cases where the amount in controversy is between $15,001 and $50,000.
The Superior Court is Delaware’s Court of general jurisdiction and is responsible for hearing civil cases, except “equity” cases. This Court has original jurisdiction over all civil matters, making it the ideal place to resolve disputes.
What you need to know
Here is what you need to do to answer a summons for debt collection in Delaware effectively.
Deadline: 15 days to file an Answer.
Do these steps:
- Decide how you want to respond to each paragraph.
- Review the Complaint and determine whether you can assert any affirmative defenses.
- You have the right to contest a debt collection lawsuit by appearing in Court on the date and time specified by the Court. This is an important decision, and you should be sure to understand your rights and options before taking action.
I wish you all the luck in the world!