Nobody likes to be slapped with a lawsuit for debt collection. It can feel like too much to deal with in today’s climate. More than likely, you don’t have the funds to hire a lawyer and need help figuring out how to proceed. It would be easy to ignore the lawsuit and hope it will disappear, but unfortunately, that won’t work. Dismissing the case means giving up and handing victory over to the other side.
Don’t worry; you can handle a debt collection lawsuit independently. This guide will show you how to respond to one in South Carolina, including what deadlines to keep in mind, which state forms to use, and any filing fees specific to your state.
South Carolina gives you 30 days to file your Answer
In South Carolina, the deadline to respond to a debt collection lawsuit is governed by state law. According to the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 12(a), the deadline for responding to a lawsuit is as follows:
“A defendant shall serve his answer within 30 days after the service of the complaint upon him.”
In South Carolina, you have thirty days to respond to a debt collection lawsuit after you have been served the Summons and Complaint documents. This time starts ticking from the day you receive the papers.
The plaintiff can request a default judgment from the Court if you do not respond within the specified time frame. This means the plaintiff will be automatically granted the amount they asked for in the Summons and Complaint, plus court costs and attorney fees. A default judgment gives the plaintiff an advantage because you will have missed the opportunity to contest any of the allegations against you.
Your creditor or a third-party debt collection company may garnish your wages and seize your property after obtaining a default judgment. Wage garnishment would enable them to collect on the default judgment by deducting money from your paycheck before you receive it.
Money is likely already tight in your household, so to avoid having your wages garnished, it is best to file a response before the 30-day deadline.
Answer to Summons forms for South Carolina
If you want to represent yourself in Court and your case falls under the jurisdiction of the Magistrate courts, you can use court form SCCA/703. The South Carolina Magistrates have civil jurisdiction over legal matters when the amount in controversy does not exceed $7,500.
To respond to this issue, draft your response and submit it to the Circuit Court. Unfortunately, no online form is available through the South Carolina court system.
In South Carolina, there is no filing fee for Answers
There is good news for those who are being sued in South Carolina- you will not have to pay a fee to file an Answer. However, there are fees for other court documents. The schedules below list the South Carolina court filing fees:
Follow These Steps
When someone sues you for debt in South Carolina, they must first file some paperwork with the Court and then serve you copies of those documents. The Summons is the official notice of the lawsuit, while the Complaint lists the specific claims against you.
Remember that the deadline to file a response in a South Carolina debt collection lawsuit is 30 days. Please file an Answer before that deadline expires to avoid a default judgment being entered against you, so it’s essential to take action within the 30-day window.
You need to know the start date to calculate your deadline accurately. This is the date on which the Summons and Complaint were served. The plaintiff is typically required to file a certificate of service, informing the Court that the documents were served correctly and that you, the defendant, have been aware of the case.
It can be daunting to respond to a legal matter, but don’t worry – it’s not as complicated as you think. Here are some tips to help you through the process.
You’ll need to take three primary steps to respond to a South Carolina debt collection lawsuit.
- Provide an answer to each complaint issue.
- Make affirmative defenses.
- Serve the plaintiff with a copy of the answer filed with the court.
1. Provide an answer to each complaint issue
You will need to answer each issue in detail in your Complaint response. It is essential to address every allegation against you in your response directly. It will be explained further below.
If you’re drafting your response for Circuit Court, you should answer each numbered paragraph with one of the following three responses:
- Admit: in other words, “This is true.”
- Deny: in other words, “Prove it.”
- Deny due to lack of knowledge: in other comments, “I don’t know.”
Be sure to use the same number for your response as the number of the paragraph you are addressing so it is clear which response corresponds to which allegation. This will help ensure that your answers are clear and concise.
See If You Qualify for Credit Card Relief
See how much you can save every month — plus get an estimate of time savings and total savings — with your very own personalized plan.
It is generally advisable for people accused of a crime to deny any claims made against them, but in some cases, admitting to specific facts (such as your name or address) may not negatively impact your case.
It is essential only to deny allegations that are not true. Admitting in part and denying in detail can be an option when the numbered paragraph contains more than one allegation. Another option is to “deny due to lack of knowledge” about something that cannot be independently verified, such as specific information about the debt collection company that is suing.
Let’s consider an example.
Example: Midland Credit Management is suing Franks for a debt he does not recognize. He denies all of the claims against him regarding this supposed debt. This forces Midland Credit Management to have to prove its case. After some investigation, it is revealed that the debt collection agency does not have enough evidence to support its claims, and the case is dismissed. It turns out that they were trying to sue Franks for a debt that he did not owe.
Instead of writing unique responses to each question on the Magistrate Answer form, you’ll need to consolidate your responses into one of only four options. This will help improve your response’s quality and make it more concise.
- Contest the jurisdiction of the Court
- Admit everything in the Complaint and do not want a trial
- Admit responsibility, but not for the total amount claimed because: ____
- I deny I am responsible at all because: _____
You can attach additional pages to this form for further explanations. We will discuss what else you need to expand on in section 3 below.
Remember that you will need to sign an online form to verify the accuracy of your answers, so it is essential to be truthful in your responses.
2. Make affirmative defenses
The next step is to assert your affirmative defenses. These are any reasons you can raise to show that the plaintiff does not have a case against you. Disputes over facts, like whether your account number or name matches the one in the pleading, or legal arguments included in the South Carolina Judicial Branch General Rules of Pleadings rule 8(c), can all be used as affirmative defenses:
“(c) Affirmative Defenses; Reply. In pleading to a preceding pleading, a party shall set forth affirmatively the defenses: accord and satisfaction, arbitration and award, assumption of risk, condonation, contributory negligence, discharge in bankruptcy, duress, fraud, illegality, injury by fellow servant, laches, license, misrepresentation, mistake, payment, plene administravit or the administration of the estate is closed, recrimination, release, res judicata, statute of frauds, statute of limitations, waiver, and any other matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense. When a party has mistakenly designated a defense as a counterclaim or a counterclaim as a defense, the Court shall treat the pleading as if there had been a proper designation. A party may file a reply to any of the foregoing affirmative defenses.”
Several affirmative defenses may apply to your case, and it is essential to assert any that may be applicable. Some of the more common affirmative defenses will be discussed briefly below, but this is not an exhaustive list. It is essential to consider all possible reasons to build the strongest case possible.
- Payment. The best defense against any collection action is to show that you paid the debt in question. Often, you are not being sued by your original creditor but by a third-party debt collection company that bought your debt for pennies on the dollar. These deals are usually done in large bundles, so the new owner only sometimes has all the details for each debt/account.
- Accord and satisfaction. Any agreement you have with a creditor to pay less than the total amount of the debt in fulfillment of the debt is known as a “payment plan.” Payment plans are often created when a debt is sold to a collection agency, and some of the original terms and conditions associated with the debt are not carried over. Any documentation or proof of such an agreement should be attached to your Answer document.
- The debt was already discharged in bankruptcy. Even though a debt may be discharged through bankruptcy, the legal system may still pursue the collection of that debt. So, even though you may have filed for personal bankruptcy and received a discharge for the debt, the plaintiff, in this case, may still have a legal case.
- The statute of limitations has expired. This article will discuss the South Carolina statute of limitations on debt collection. This law sets deadlines for taking legal action and can vary depending on the situation.
Let’s take a look at another example.
Example: Jenny is fighting back against a credit card debt lawsuit in South Carolina. The debt collection agency that sued her purchased the debt for $450 from her original creditor. Still, after investigating, she realized that the statute of limitations on credit card debt had expired. She drafted and filed an Answer with the Court, using the expired statute of limitations as one of her affirmative defenses. The Court ruled in her favor and dismissed the case.
Once you have determined which affirmative defenses apply to your case, you must list and argue each in your response. This may require additional pages on the Magistrate Answer form or a new section in your response document. Please clearly state and support each defense, as this can make or break your case.
You can defend yourself against a debt collector in South Carolina in a few different ways. One way is to assert counterclaims against the plaintiff. This is appropriate if you show that the plaintiff violated South Carolina debt collection laws. Another way is to follow the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which protects consumers from unfair debt collection practices.
Lastly, you could supplement the federal act with the South Carolina Consumer Protection Code to further protect yourself from unfair debt collection in South Carolina. However, please keep in mind that counterclaims can be very complex and difficult to pursue without knowledgeable legal counsel.
3. Serve the plaintiff with a copy of the answer filed with the court
After you have gathered your evidence and made your argument, you must file your response with the Court. This must be done within 30 days of receiving notice from the plaintiff.
Printing at least two copies of your Answer and Appearance is always a good idea. One copy should be mailed to the Court, and the other copy should be mailed to the plaintiff’s attorney. Making a third set for your records whenever possible is also a good idea.
South Carolina’s Statute of Limitations on Debt
In South Carolina, creditors have three years to file a debt collection action. This timeframe applies to credit card debt, medical debt, and contracts. Once three years have passed, creditors are barred from taking further action because of the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Exception: There is a 10-year statute of limitations on judgment debts. So, even though you may lose your debt lawsuit, collectors only have a limited time to collect any judgments against you.
Debt collectors have a limited time to file a lawsuit against you. The statute of limitations for debt is three years from the last activity on your account. This means that the debt collector can no longer take you to Court over the debt after three years. You can use this as a defense against the debt collector.
There are legal aid organizations in South Carolina that can assist you
Many organizations offer free legal services to those who cannot afford them. Depending on the state you live in, you may have different options. In South Carolina, for example, you can check out either of the below organizations:
- South Carolina Legal Services
- South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center
Locations of South Carolina courts
On this page (sccourts.org/circuitCourt/circuitMap.cfm) is a list of South Carolina court locations.
What you need to know
Here’s a quick review of how to respond to a Summons for debt collection in South Carolina:
- In South Carolina, debt lawsuits must be answered within 30 days.
- In the state of South Carolina, there is no charge for filing fees in courts.
- When responding to claims against you, assert your affirmative defenses.
- You must submit your Answer to the Court and send a copy to the other party.
Different states have different statutes of limitations on debt. In South Carolina, this time limit is three years.