You may feel overwhelmed and alone after being served with a debt collection lawsuit in Louisiana. But don’t worry, you are not the only one. Hundreds of people in Louisiana are sued for unpaid debts every day.
No one likes being sued for debt. It’s a traumatic experience. But there is a good chance you will only have to pay part of the amount you allegedly owe, or possibly any of it. And those pesky debt collectors’ calls from collections agencies will finally end.
Keep reading to find out how to properly respond to your Louisiana debt collection lawsuit through a formal Answer and protect your legal rights as detailed in the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA).
Lawsuits for debt collection should be viewed as new beginnings
Don’t despair if you’re served with a Summons and Complaint for an unpaid debt. Taking the proper steps in response can help you win the lawsuit and safeguard your finances. The most important thing you can do after being served is to take action. Doing nothing is the worst possible option.
Louisiana residents who receive a summons and Complaint for an alleged unpaid debt can find helpful information in the guide provided below. This guide covers credit card debts, student loans, medical bills, and other types of debts and details specific Louisiana debt collection laws.
Response To Summons And Complaints In Louisiana
In Louisana, residents who have been served with a debt collection Summons and Complaint are required by law to file an official Answer with the court within 15 days. Failure to do so may result in a court-issued default judgment, which can have serious consequences. Even a one-sentence written Answer such as “I deny ownership of the debt referenced in the Summons and Complaint” can be filed with the court as an official Answer, preventing this worst-case scenario. Therefore, taking action within the 15-day timeframe is essential to avoid any negative repercussions.
It is essential to respond to a Summons and Complaint within the 15 days allowed by Louisiana law, as failing to do so will result in the plaintiff’s attorney filing a Motion for Default Judgment. A Motion for Default Judgment essentially says that you should lose automatically because you failed to respond to the case – it’s like forfeiting a basketball game because you didn’t show up. In almost every instance, the judge will grant the default judgment.
A successful answer sets the stage
One of the goals of responding to a Summons and Complaint with a formal Answer is to try to get either dismissal of your case by motion from the judge or to settle with the opposing party. A well-crafted Answer might also result in a Motion for Summary Judgment being granted in your favor.
The ideal outcome of a Motion to Dismiss is that it is granted “With Prejudice.” This means that the debt cannot be sued for again. Alternatively, “Without Prejudice” leaves the door open for the plaintiff to bring the matter back to court later.
Summons Answer Forms from Louisiana
In Louisana, debtors are not required to respond to Summons through a standard template. There is no official Answer form for debtors in this state.
An essential part of responding to a lawsuit is sending your Answer to the court and opposing attorney. The United States Postal Service offers a Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested option that will give you proof that your Answer was received. This is important because it shows that the other side has received your response and that the court has been notified.
Make sure you keep copies of your postal receipts as proof of delivery. Over time, the receipts may fade, so it’s essential to have a copy in your records. You might also spill something on them or misplace them, so making copies is an excellent way to ensure you have evidence of delivery.
Louisiana Debt Collection Lawsuit Response
Debt collectors often take legal action to recover unpaid debts. This usually starts with them serving you, as the debtor, with two documents detailing what is owed. These are known as Summons and complaints. In Louisiana, you’re required to respond to these within 15 days by filing a formal Answer with the court. Otherwise, you may lose your case by default due to missing this deadline – which would result in a judgment in favor of the creditor.
The judge may reconsider your case and set aside the judgment against you, but don’t count on it. After you are served with a debt collection Summons and Complaint, don’t wallow in self-misery. Instead, get right to work on creating your formal Answer. Send the Answer well ahead of the expiration date to be safe.
It is in your best interest to respond to a Summons and Complaint with a detailed Answer that addresses every allegation raised. This is also your opportunity to assert any affirmative defenses that may apply to your case. Once your Answer is ready, you will need to file it with the court and send a copy to the plaintiff via Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested. This will provide you with proof of service. Here is a closer look at each step involved in responding to debt collection litigation with an official Answer.
1. Your answer should be created
Filing a detailed Answer is an essential step in winning your debt collection lawsuit. By providing sufficient detail and addressing each accusation in the Summons and Complaint, you may convince opposing counsel to settle for less than what is listed in those documents. A Motion to Dismiss may not be necessary.
It is always best to type your Answer in a word processing document, print it out, and sign it. This polished approach is better than writing out your Answer with pen and paper. The judge presiding over your case will be more sympathetic to your cause if you invest the time and effort to type your Answer rather than write it out by hand on loose-leaf paper.
Your Answer should have the following “styling” information at the top of the document:
- Your full name and address
- The name of the plaintiff (opposing attorney) and their client (the creditor)
- The court’s terms and information, including whether it is a state or city court
- The court’s address
Do not forget to include the specific case information, including:
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- Index number,
- Case number
- Amount of money allegedly owed as listed in the Summons and Complaint
Once this information is added to the top of the Answer, It is time to provide your formal written rebuttal to the accusations made in the Summons & Complaint. This document will outline why the claims against you are false and explain what happened.
2. Respond to each complaint accusation
The process of responding to a Complaint can be daunting. Still, it is essential to take the time to read through all of the details and accusations made in the Complaint. You can respond with “Deny” if you feel the allegations are incorrect or “Admit” if you think they are truthful.
The allegations made in the Complaint may not be accurate. Respond to those paragraphs: “Defendant denies the allegation for lack of knowledge sufficient to know the truth or falsity thereof.” Keep sight that you can always amend your Answer or alter your strategy at a court hearing after the initial Answer is filed.
Different attorneys have different opinions on how to respond to a Complaint. One approach is to deny everything in the Complaint with a general denial. This forces the opposing attorney to prove the allegations in the Complaint rather than putting the burden of proof on you.
3. Make your affirmative defenses
There are many possible reasons why the plaintiff in a lawsuit may not have a strong case. This is known as an “affirmative defense.” Every potential defense should be listed in the Answer, even if you still determine if it applies to your particular case. Some common examples of securities include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The debt has already been paid
- The debt has been excused
- Part of the debt has been paid
- The defendant is a co-signer yet was not informed of his or her rights as a co-signer
- The account named in the Summons and Complaint is not the defendant’s account.
In Louisiana, there is a statute of limitations on debt collection. This means that creditors cannot pursue debts over a certain number of years. For example, credit card companies in Louisiana have three years to collect unpaid debts. After that, they can no longer take legal action to get money from you.
4. Filing the Answer
You can’t just throw your Answer in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and drop it in a mailbox for delivery to the court. You need to make copies of this legal document before sending the original. Keep one copy for your records. Send another copy to the plaintiff’s attorney.
At the bottom of the Answer, include the court’s address, opposing counsel’s address, and creditor’s address. Send the Answer Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested so you have proof that delivery was made.
Louisiana’s Statute Of Limitations On Debt Collection
Debt collectors in Louisiana have a limited time to sue for unpaid debts. This is known as the statute of limitations, and it varies depending on the type of debt. Once this deadline has passed, collectors can no longer take legal action against you.
Let’s consider the example of Jose. Assuming Jose has a credit card debt with Capital One that he last paid off four years ago, Capital One would be violating the statute of limitations by suing him for the debt. However, this wouldn’t matter unless Jose brings it up as an affirmative defense in his Answer to the lawsuit. He would need to tell the court that the statute of limitations has passed, so Capital One can no longer collect on the debt.
Legal Aid Organizations In Louisiana
Several government-assisted organizations provide free legal services to residents in all 50 states. Louisiana has two such organizations that offer these services free of charge.
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corporation
1340 Poydras St. Ste. 600
New Orleans, LA 70112
Acadiana Legal Service Corporation
1020 Surrey Street
P.O. Box 4823
Lafayette, LA 70502
Here is how to correctly answer a Summons and Complaint for debt collection that you were served with in Louisiana:
Deadline to file an Answer in Louisiana: 15 days
Steps to fight the litigation:
- Create the Answer
- Respond to the allegations made in the Complaint by individually addressing each in your Answer
- Assert affirmative defenses as appropriate to each of the claims made in the Complaint
- Serve the Answer to opposing counsel and file it with the court through Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested