Debt lawsuits are terrible, there’s no denying that. But this article will help make the process of responding to one a little bit easier. Specifically, we’ll tell you how to answer a summons for debt collection in Florida.
Assuming you have received a summons for debt collection in Florida, you should know a few things. First and foremost, there are deadlines for responding to the summons and specific forms that need to be filed.
Florida Debt Lawsuit Deadline
You have just 20 days to respond to a debt summons and a Complaint served on you in Florida. That’s 20 days total, counting weekends. Responding quickly is critical to protecting your rights and interests.
For example, Jenny is being sued in Florida for a credit card debt. She was served the court Summons and Complaint on March 11, 2022 (Friday). That means she has until March 31, 2022 (Thursday) to submit her written response. Jenny filed her answer with the court on March 31, the last day within the deadline, and it was accepted.
Many courts are lenient when it comes to deadlines, especially when a lawyer does not represent the person who is being sued. So, pro se defendants (those without legal representation) might be given extra time to respond by the court.
You Must Follow These Steps To Fight A Debt Collection Lawsuit In Florida
When you receive notice of a lawsuit, you will be given two documents: the Summons and Complaint. You have 20 days to respond by filing an Answer or Motion in Florida. An Answer is usually the best way to respond to a lawsuit.
You only have 20 days to respond to this. After that, you will lose your case by default judgment.
There are three steps to respond to the Summons and Complaint.
- Answer each issue listed in the complaint
- Assert affirmative defenses
- File one copy of the Answer document with the court and serve the plaintiff with another copy.
1. Answer each issue of the Complaint
People are often intimidated by the process of creating an Answer document. This is understandable, as the complaint can be quite long and complex. However, following these instructions will make the process much simpler. Simply read the complaint and decide how to respond to each numbered paragraph. It is important to avoid writing lengthy Answers that over-explain your side of the story; instead, focus on responding in one of three ways: write a unique version
- Admit: Like saying, This is true.
- Deny: Like saying, Prove it.
- Deny due to lack of knowledge: Like saying, I don’t know.
Some attorneys recommend making a general denial, where you deny everything in the complaint and force the other side to prove everything. Others believe editing the text to improve quality, using different words, or changing the introduction is better.
2. Make Affirmative Defenses
Affirmative defenses protect you from unfounded legal claims. By asserting one or more of these defenses, you can explain why the person suing you does not have a valid case. This allows you the opportunity to give your side of the story. Some common affirmative defenses include:
- The account with the debt is not your account.
- The contract was already canceled. Therefore you don’t owe the creditor anything.
- The statute of limitations has expired. Nothing is worse than owing someone money and not being able to pay it back. This is where the statute of limitations comes into play. This law sets forth how long you have to repay the debt before the debtor can no longer sue you for the money. In most cases, the statute of limitations is six years.
- The debt has been paid or excused.
- The debt has been partially paid.
- You were a co-signer but were not informed of your rights as a co-signer.
3. Serve The Plaintiff With The Answer And File It With The Court
Filing an Answer to a lawsuit can be tricky. Specific requirements must be met for the answer to be accepted by the court, such as an original signature and a certificate of service. Failure to meet these requirements can result in the answering court rejecting the answer. The following are some helpful hints for successfully filing an Answer:
- Print two copies of your answer
- Mail the original to the court
- Mail the other copy to the plaintiff’s attorney.
You will find both addresses in Summons and Complaint you received in the mail. You will see the attorney’s address on the top left of the first page. You will find the court’s address in the first two paragraphs of the document.
Get Informed Before Paying
Debt collection agencies often purchase debts from credit card companies. However, before you send any money to a debt collection agency that has contacted you, do your research first.
Different states have different laws regarding the statute of limitations on debts. This is the time a creditor or collection agency has to file a lawsuit to recover the debt. Knowing the statute of limitations for your state can help you make informed decisions about debt repayment.
Making payments on a debt past the statute of limitations can restart the clock, giving the collection agency the legal right to take you to court again. So before making any payments, be sure your debt is still valid.
Validate The Debt
The FDPCA requires debt collection agencies to validate a debt in writing within five days of contacting the consumer. Without validation, the consumer can send a Debt Validation Letter to the agency asking for verification. Often, collection agencies will give up after receiving such a letter because it would be more costly and time-consuming to verify the debt.
When a collections agency contacts you about a debt, they are required by law to provide evidence that the debt is valid. Without this validation, they are not allowed to continue contact or attempt to collect payment. This means that you are not obligated to pay anything unless the agency can provide proper validation.
Sending a Debt Validation Letter is the best way to handle this situation. When a debt collector contacts you, they are required by law to provide proof that you actually owe the debt they are trying to collect. This is called validation. Once you request validation from the collector in writing, they are not allowed to contact you again or take any further action until they provide evidence of the debt.
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