Summary: If you live in Indiana and need assistance responding to a debt collection lawsuit, you can try our tool or read this guide for more information.
The experience of being in debt can be stressful and overwhelming, especially when you fall behind on your payments and begin receiving calls and letters from debt collectors.
You might want to consider taking legal action against those who have wronged you, especially if you have tried to work things out but have not seen any improvement.
The court in Indiana notifies you about the lawsuit when you get a summons for debt. It’s only going to get worse if you ignore the summons. In other words, you’re handing over your victory to the creditor’s lawyer without even putting up a fight. Not to mention, you’ll probably owe more money.
To Answer A Summons For Debt Collection in Indiana, You Have 20 Days
When you’re served with papers, you’ve got a limited time to respond. Indiana law gives you 20 days.
You might not know what to do or who to call when you get a summons, and you might not be able to afford an attorney. But ignoring the summons will only worsen the situation. You can fight the charges if you file a written Answer.
If you don’t respond within 20 days, the creditor can seize your bank account, garnish your wages, and put a lien on your house to recoup the money you owe. That’s why you have to act fast – to make sure you’re not out of luck.
Steps to Answer A Debt Collection Case In Indiana
You don’t have to let a default judgment happen because you didn’t respond within the 20-day limit. A default judgment can create financial problems down the road.
You just have to follow three steps to answer the summons:
- Respond to each complaint issue
- Make affirmative defenses
- One copy of the Answer goes to the court; one copy goes to the plaintiff.
1. Make An Answer Document.
To file this document with the court, which answers the plaintiff’s allegations in their court petition, all details need to be covered. That means responding to every paragraph.
Answers must include all the information from the Complaint and Summons.
- Name, address, and other personal info
- Information about the plaintiff, or the company suing you and the lawyer representing them.
- The court that the case is in Indiana, its address, etc.
- Your case number, index number, civil number, or whatever the court uses to identify you
- Amount of the lawsuit
- Information related to the case
Use steps two and three to finish your Answer document before you file. This is known as “styling.” Once you have all this information in your document, move on to the next step.
2. Response To Each Issue Posed In The Complaint.
The next step is to read the entire complaint and determine how you wish to respond to each numbered paragraph. For each accusation, you can choose one of the three responses listed below:
- Admit it (like saying that’s true)
- Deny (like saying Prove it)
- Deny due to lack of knowledge (like saying I don’t know)
In most cases, attorneys recommend their clients deny all accusations against them, known as a “general denial.” This makes it harder for the plaintiff to prove that the allegations are accurate. It’s okay to say you don’t know the answer to each accusation, but it’s also okay to say you don’t. However, you can explain why you disagree with it.
Depending on what you need, you can edit your answer later on.
3. Affirmative Defenses.
Now it’s your turn to talk. In other words, it’s your turn to defend yourself. Just keep your answers and stories short. Please list all your affirmative defenses now because you won’t be able to bring them up later.
You can use these affirmative defenses:
- A statute of limitations has expired, and the plaintiff no longer has the right to file a lawsuit (this is a significant issue, and many collectors know better but still file suits).
- As a victim of identity theft, another individual used your name and information to incur the debt.
- The amount of the debt the plaintiff owes you does not match the amount they are suing you.
- There is no longer any obligation on your part to the plaintiff as the account has been closed or canceled.
- There was a difference between the amount in the complaint and the amount settled.
- A debt has been fully or partially paid and settled (“satisfied”).
- There was an excuse for the debt.
- In filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff is acting in bad faith
- As a co-signer, you were not informed of your rights as a co-signer on the debt.
- The debt was the subject of harassment by the debt collector.
The failure to pay the debt will not be considered an affirmative defense unless you have previously filed for bankruptcy. To invoke this defense, you must provide documentation that the debt has been discharged.
4. File The Answer With The Court And Serve It On The Plaintiff.
Now is the time for you to take a swing and hit the ball back into the court of the other team.
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It is important to respond to a lawsuit by filing an Answer to it with the court. Make sure to send a copy of your Answer to the plaintiff’s attorney as well. In Indiana, you have the option of e-filing, which is convenient and paperless. You can also e-mail your response through certified mail by asking for a return receipt. This will ensure that your letter is not lost as well as that you have a record of delivery.
What Happens If I Am Served An Alias Summons in Indiana?
A second summons is issued when the first summons is unable to be delivered. This is also known as an “alias summons.” In other words, the plaintiff tried to serve you with the original summons but could not find you. Now they are sending another summons to continue with the lawsuit.
In the event of an alias summons being served on you, you will have twenty days to respond in writing. Failure to do so may lead to the entry of a default judgment against you.
What If I Don’t Receive A Summons?
There is a likelihood that you might not be aware that a lawsuit might be happening without your knowledge. This can be the case because you may not have been served with a summons. In such a case, a default judgment may be entered in the case.
It is possible to set aside a judgment against you by filing a motion to set it aside and explaining to the court that you did not know about the lawsuit when you filed it. It is almost always the case that the court will accept your Motion, allowing you to respond with your written Answer and use “improper service” as one of your affirmative defenses.
Responding To The Alias Summons Avoid Default Judgment In Indiana
You have only 20 days to respond to a debt lawsuit in Indiana. Otherwise, the plaintiff can file a default judgment against you, which would allow them to take the money directly from your bank account or paycheck or put liens on your property against the amount owed to you.
As an example, John was surprised one day to find that his paycheck had been cut. After some investigation, he found out Discover Card garnished his wages and was taking out money every month to pay off a debt. A court Summons and Complaint were served to John in March, but he didn’t respond. Therefore, Discover Card got a default judgment.
Make sure you’re not John in this situation. Be proactive and file your Answer right away.
Statute Of Limitations On Debt Collection In Indiana
The Statute of Limitations in Indiana is a law that states that you have a limited amount of time before someone can file a lawsuit against you. The deadline varies based on the type of debt you owe. For instance, credit card debt has a different statute of limitations than medical debt.
The calculation is based on your last activity on the account, so in the case of credit card debt, it would be calculated based on the last purchase you made with that card.
Once the statute of limitations has expired on a debt, you may be able to use this as a defense against the company trying to collect the debt from you. In Indiana, debt statutes of limitations govern the amount of time for which a company has the right to sue you for nonpayment.
It’s possible for the collections agency to sue you even if you defaulted on your credit card eight years ago. An answer must be filed to prevent this from happening. Without taking this action, they’ll win, and you’ll owe them not only the debt but also attorney fees.
It’s true that debt collectors can’t sue you for an unpaid debt, but it doesn’t mean that the debt is forgiven. It’ll still appear on your credit report, and you’ll need to pay it back.
Legal Aid Organizations In Indiana
There are a number of ways you can get legal help, even if you do not have the money for a retainer. Here are a few of them:
Indiana Legal Services, Inc.
In Indiana, this nonprofit law firm helps low-income families with civil (non-criminal) issues.
Indiana Legal Help
Indiana Legal Help is a non-profit organization that provides free legal services to residents of Indiana who are low-income. They offer assistance with a variety of civil legal matters, such as family law, housing, and consumer problems. Alternatively, you may contact them at [email protected], or you can find legal help in your area by using their directory page.
Indianapolis Bar Association
135 N. Pennsylvania St., Suite 1500
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: (317) 269-2000
Fax: (317) 269-1915
Indianapolis Legal Aid Society
615 N Alabama St #122
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: (317) 635-9538
Fax: (317) 631-4423
Legal Services Organization of Indiana Inc.
151 North Delaware Street, Suite 1800
Indianapolis IN, 46204-2517
Hotline: (317)632-5764 (intake)
Phone: (800) 869-0212
Phone: (317)631-9436 (TDD)
Legal Services Program of Northern Indiana Inc.
639 Columbia St.
Lafayette IN, 47902-1455
Phone: (800) 382-7581
Legal Aid Corporation of Tippecanoe County, Inc.
212 N. 5th St.
Lafayette, IN 47901-1404
Christian Ministries of Delaware County
401 E. Main St.
Muncie, IN 47305
Indiana Legal Services – Consumer Law Center
Plaza Square South Suite 5
3303 Plaza Drive
New Albany, IN 47150
Notre Dame Law Clinic
725 Howard Street
South Bend, IN 46617
Valparaiso School of Law Clinic
651 South College Heritage Hall
Valparaiso, IN 46383
In summary, here is a review of how to respond to a summons for debt collection in Indiana and how to file an answer to the summons.
- You have 20 days to respond to the request
There are certain steps that you need to take to defend yourself in a lawsuit:
- Describe each issue in the complaint in detail, paragraph by paragraph.
- Make sure you assert all affirmative defenses that you may have, including an expired statute of limitations if you have one.
- The answer to the complaint should be filed and served in court.