After being served with a Writ of Summons for debt collection in Maryland, you may feel scared and anxious about the future. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about how to answer a summons for debt collection in Maryland.
Answering A Summons For Debt Collection In Maryland
You may be surprised to receive a Writ of Summons and Complaint in the mail informing you of a debt collection lawsuit against you. The Complaint lists the claims being made against you. Most debt collection lawsuits are handled in Maryland district courts. It is important to take action upon receiving this notice. Ignoring the lawsuit will not make it disappear, and you may owe more money.
You can defend yourself against the charges in the Writ of Summons. To do so, you must sign and file the Notice of Intention to Defend before the deadline. This document tells the court that you intend to fight the case.
In Maryland, the deadline to respond to a Writ of Summons and Complaint is usually 15 days. However, there are some exceptions to this rule which are listed below which are listed in Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure for the District Court, Rule 3-307:
“(a) To Be Filed With Court–When Service Not Required. The defendant, including a counter-defendant, cross-defendant, and third-party defendant, shall file a notice of intention to defend with the court, which may include any explanation or ground of defense. When an attorney represents the defendant, the notice shall be served following Rule 1-321. A defendant not represented by an attorney need not serve the notice on any party.
(b) Time for Filing. (1)Generally. Except as provided by subsection (b)(2) of this rule, the notice shall be filed within 15 days after service of the Complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim.
(2)Exceptions. A defendant shall file the notice within 60 days after being served if the defendant is:
(A) served outside of the state;
(B) a person who is required by statute of this state to have a resident agent and who is served by service upon the State Department of Assessments and Taxation, the Insurance Commissioner, or some other agency of the state authorized by statute to receive process; or
(C) the United States or an officer or agency of the United States served according to Rule 3-124(m) or (n).”
You have ten days from the Notice of Intention to Defend to file a counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim in response to the debt collection Summons.
Maryland circuit courts have a different deadline
According to Maryland Circuit Court Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 2-321(a) states:
“General Rule. A party shall file an answer to an original complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim within 30 days after being served, except as provided by sections (b) and (c) of this rule.”
You have 30 days to respond to a Summons and Complaint filed against you in Maryland circuit courts. However, some exceptions to this rule are listed under Rule 2-321(b).
Answer To Summons Forms In Maryland
The State of Maryland has made it easier for defendants to respond to a summons. The Writ of Summons document includes a Notice of Intention to Defend, which can be filled out and returned as your response.
You Must Follow These Steps To Fight A Debt Collection Lawsuit
In Maryland, you can respond to a debt collection case by filing a Notice of Intention to Defend. This document is located on the bottom portion of your Writ of Summons. However, keep in mind that there is only so much information you can include in your Notice of Intention to Defend. In most cases, it is better to file an Answer instead. An Answer also serves as a Notice of Intention to Defend.
Follow these three steps to prepare your Answer to a debt collection lawsuit in Maryland:
- Respond to each claim listed in the Complaint.
- Assert your affirmative defenses.
- File the Answer in court, and send a copy to the opposing attorney.
1. Answer each issue of the Complaint
The document you received lists specific claims or allegations. In response to each allegation, you can either admit it, deny it, or deny it due to lack of knowledge. Let’s explain each option.
When you admit an allegation, you’re saying that it’s true.
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- When you admit a claim, it’s like saying, “This is true.” When you admit a claim, there is no contest. Admitting all the claims in your Answer would probably lead to a judgment against you.
- When you deny a claim, it’s like saying, “Prove it.” Keep in mind that this isn’t the same as saying, “This is not true.” Denying a claim is simply refusing to admit it as truth before a court of law.
- When you deny a claim due to a lack of knowledge, it’s like saying, “I don’t know.” This is a perfectly fine response to use if you aren’t sure about the allegations being made against you.
Although some attorneys may recommend denying as many claims as possible, this could potentially backfire. By forcing the plaintiff to do more work to prove their side of the case, they may be able to dig up the proper documentation and ultimately win the case.
2. Make Affirmative Defenses
When you receive notice of a debt collection lawsuit, it can be confusing and overwhelming. But don’t worry; there are ways to fight back. One way is to use an affirmative defense.
An affirmative defense is an argument that you make to the court showing that the debt collection company does not have a case against you. There are many different types of affirmative defenses, so it’s important to do your research to see which one applies best to your situation. Here are some examples of affirmative defenses:
- The account alleged to be delinquent is not your account.
- The contract was already canceled. Therefore you don’t owe the creditor anything.
- You should always be aware of your state’s statute of limitations for debt collection lawsuits. This is because, once this time limit expires, collectors can no longer sue you for payment. It is, therefore, extremely important to keep track of this date and, should a lawsuit be filed outside of it, to assert this as an affirmative defense. Additionally, you can bolster your argument by presenting evidence in court in the form of a copy of your credit report showing that the debt in question is no longer valid. By doing so, you stand a good chance of having any such case dismissed.
These are a number of defenses you can use to avoid paying back your debt, but it’s important to remember that simply being unable to pay is not usually a legal defense.
According to Maryland law, a Writ of Summons must be served properly to initiate legal action. However, there are instances where service is not carried out correctly. This can be grounds for challenging the lawsuit. By filing a pretrial request or raising the issue during trial, you may be able to get the case dismissed on the basis of improper service.
3. Serve The Plaintiff With The Answer And File It With The Court
You have 15 days to file your Answer in district court cases and 30 days for circuit court cases in Maryland. Some counties in Maryland offer an easy e-filing system for court documents, but it is not available statewide. You may need to mail or hand-deliver your Answer instead.
Make sure to file your Answer with the court, and then send a copy to the other party’s attorney via USPS certified mail. The attorney’s address can be found on the Writ of Summons or the Complaint.
The Statute Of Limitations
The time limits set by Maryland law for debt collection lawsuits are very important. Basically, any lawsuit filed after the expiration of these time limits is likely to be stopped. These laws are called “statutes of limitations.”
In fact, Maryland Statutes §5–101 states:
“A civil action at law shall be filed within three years from the date it accrues unless another provision of the Code provides a different period of time within which an action shall be commenced.”
This means that, in Maryland, the statute of limitations for a debt collection lawsuit is three years. In other words, after three years have passed since the last activity on an account, debt collectors are no longer able to initiate a case. Both alleged debts based on a written contract and “open accounts” (credit cards) fall under these time constraints.
The date of the last activity on a credit card account is known as the date of the last payment. This date is important because it determines when a debt collector can attempt to collect an alleged amount owed on the account.
Your account must be at least three years old to qualify for the statute of limitations defense. This means that the case can be dismissed entirely.
This is Maryland’s Statute of Limitations on Debt:
|Debt Type||Deadline in Years|
You Can Get Legal Assistance From A Maryland Legal Aid Organization
There are a number of organizations in Maryland that can help you defend yourself against a debt collection lawsuit. For example, Maryland Legal Aid is the largest provider of free legal services in the state, with 12 office locations in Baltimore City and counties throughout Maryland. Other organizations that may be able to offer assistance include pro bono clinics, community legal centers, and private attorneys.
Additionally, the Debtor Assistance Project is an innovative legal clinic that provides people with the opportunity to meet with a volunteer bankruptcy attorney for a free case review. You can schedule an appointment with a volunteer attorney by phone or meet with them at one of the following locations:
Baltimore Federal Courthouse
101 W. Lombard Street, 1st Floor
Baltimore, MD 21201
Easton-Office of MidShore Pro Bono
8 S. West Street
Easton, MD 21601
Greenbelt Federal Courthouse
6500 Cherrywood Lane, 1st Floor
Greenbelt, MD 20770
There are many reasons why you might prefer to drop off your Answer at the courthouse in person rather than filing it online or sending it by mail. The Maryland court directory can help you find your courthouse address and contact your court clerk.
In Maryland, debt collection lawsuits can be litigated in one of two types of courts:
- General District Court
- Circuit Court
The amount you are seeking in your lawsuit will determine which court has jurisdiction. For claims under $5,000, you will need to file in a district court. Both district and circuit courts have jurisdiction for civil claims between $5,001 and $30,000. Anything above $30,000 can only be filed in a circuit court.
In summary, here is an overview of how to respond to a Writ of Summons for debt collection in Maryland.
- You have 15 days to file your Answer (also known as a Notice of Intent to Defend) in the district court (60 days if you do not reside in Maryland).
- You have 30 days to file your Answer in the circuit courts.
- There is no fee to file an Answer in Maryland courts.
- Your Answer document should focus on responding to each allegation listed in the Complaint and asserting your affirmative defenses.
- File your Answer with the court before the deadline, and send a copy of it to the opposing attorney.
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