No one likes being sued for debt. It’s a scary and overwhelming experience. You may be tempted to ignore the lawsuit and hope it goes away, but that will only guarantee that the other side wins. To preserve your rights and refute any incorrect allegations, you must respond to the lawsuit within the allowed timeframe. Without hiring an attorney, this task will fall on you.
The process of responding to a debt lawsuit can be daunting, but with the correct information, it can be manageable. In Tennessee, specific deadlines and forms must be completed when responding to a summons for debt collection. Having all the required information can help make the process go more smoothly.
How to respond to a debt collection summons in Tennessee
In Tennessee, you have 30 days to respond to a debt collection summons. This period starts when you are served with a summons and a Complaint, which officially begin a lawsuit. Failure to respond within 30 days will result in a default judgment being entered against you by the Court in favor of whoever is suing you (known as the plaintiff).
The other side automatically wins when you don’t answer or defend yourself in Court. This is called a default judgment. Once they have one, the plaintiff can garnish your wages or tax returns to get money from you directly. This will probably worsen your financial situation than it was at the start.
The most important thing to do when you receive a summons and Complaint for debt collection in Tennessee is to respond within 30 days. This preserves your rights, even if you agree that you owe the money. The Tennessee Courts have a Self-Help Center to help you through the court process and negotiate a payment plan that works with your current financial situation.
Tennessee Summons Answers
Tennessee courts offer a variety of online forms for legal matters. You can use these forms to resolve disputes quickly and easily. However, sometimes, you may need to use a paper form. For example, in small claims court (usual disputes of $25,000 or less) under General Sessions, you can use this paper form to disagree with any (or all)
You cannot simply fill out a form to answer in Circuit or Chancery court – you will need to draft your Answer in the proper format to submit to the Court. This process is detailed below.
Fees for filing Tennessee answers
Generally, courts in Tennessee don’t charge a fee for an Answer document.
Responding to a Tennessee Debt Collection Case
The process of filing a suit against someone typically begins with the plaintiff, who could be either the original creditor or, more likely. This third-party debt collection company has purchased the debt from the creditor. In Tennessee, it’s important to remember that you only have 30 days to respond by filing an Answer with the appropriate Court. Another option would be to respond with a Motion, but that can get more complicated without legal assistance. So, an answer is usually the best choice.
You have 30 days to file a response with the Court. After that, you will automatically lose your case by default. So it’s essential to make every effort to work within the allowed time frame.
There are four steps to respond to the Complaint.
- Create an Answer document.
- Answer each issue of the Complaint.
- Assert affirmative defenses.
- File one copy of the Answer document with the Court and serve the plaintiff with another copy.
We will examine each step in detail below.
Prepare an answer document
The first step you should take after being served with a debt collection lawsuit is to format and file your answer document. Depending on which Court your case is in (Circuit or Chancery), you must ensure that your document is formatted correctly.
The Complaint and Summons you received include all the information you need for your Answer. The plaintiff has already determined which Court is suitable for the case, so you don’t need to worry. This makes things much easier for you.
- Personal information: address, name, etc.
- Plaintiff information: the attorney is suing you, the company is suing, etc.
- Court information: the name of the Tennessee court the case is in, the address of the Court, etc.
- Case information: the case number, index number, civil number, lawsuit amount, etc.
After being served with a Summons and Complaint, it is important to take some time to understand the allegations made against you. Once you know the claims well, it is time to start working on your Answer document.
Respond to each complaint issue
The defendant needs to read the Complaint and decide how to respond to each numbered paragraph. The response will differ depending on whether the case is in Circuit or Chancery Court. In some cases, an Answer that responds to every allegation in the Complaint may be necessary.
You can respond in one of three ways:
- Admit: This means “I Agree.”
- Deny: This means “I disagree.”
- Deny lack of knowledge: “I don’t know.”
Please choose one of these responses and write it into your Answer. Remember that it is okay to “agree” with accurate information, such as your name or account number. You do not need to deny every accusation to be successful in the case. Be sure to list each Answer next to the number of the corresponding paragraph.
To file an Answer in General Sessions court, you must complete the paper form from the Court. This form requires you to agree with all three of the numbered sections under “I swear the following” before you can proceed. By doing so, you swear under oath that everything listed is accurate. However, you can list some (or all) of your reasons for denial in the fourth section provided. The form also preserves your right to raise additional defenses at trial.
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.
A notary must sign the document before it can be filed with the Court. After signing the document, make at least two copies. One copy will be filed along with the original at Court, and the other copy will be given to the attorney (or plaintiff, if there is no attorney). The form also requires that you bring stamped and addressed envelopes to Court so that the attorney (or plaintiff) can mail out the documents after you fill out the “certificate of service” portion on the second page. Finally, you should bring any proof you have for your defense(s).
Make affirmative defenses
When responding to allegations in a complaint, you can raise any applicable affirmative defenses. An affirmative defense is why the person suing doesn’t have a case.
Here are some of the more common defenses we see:
- The account does not belong to you. It may have a different account number or belong to someone else with a similar name. Or, it may have been opened by someone else entirely – possibly due to identity theft.
- The debt has already been paid. You should attach any documentation showing that the account has already been paid.
- The original creditor may have agreed to accept partial payment of the debt to satisfy the balance owed. Any documentation supporting this agreement should be attached.
- You can no longer be compelled to pay this debt through the Court, even though you may have filed for bankruptcy. This is because you would have received a notice of discharge that included this debt.
- As a co-signer, you must be aware of your rights and obligations. In Tennessee, debt collectors may continue to pursue a co-signer or an estate after the death of the primary debtor. This can become a complicated issue, so it is advisable to consult with an attorney.
- There is a time limit for taking legal action. This is called a statute of limitations, varying from state to state. There are different statutes of limitations in Tennessee depending on what type of legal action you want to take.
There are many affirmative defenses available to those who are accused of debt. However, being unable to pay the debt is not a legal defense.
Tennessee has laws in place to protect consumers from unfair debt collection practices. These laws are based on the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Any violation of the FDCPA is also a violation of Tennessee law. Consumers who believe a debt collector has mistreated them can file a counterclaim against the collector. These cases can be complex, so it is best to consult an attorney before taking action.
Serve the plaintiff with the Answer and file it with the court
Be sure to file your Answer with the correct Court on time; otherwise, all your hard work will be for nothing. The Court must receive the Answer within 30 days of the deadline to be valid. Most Courts consider “filed” to mean that they have received the document; simply putting it in the mail within the deadline is not enough.
Here’s what you need to do to file your Answer.
- Print at least two copies of your Answer. If you can print another copy, keeping a copy for your records is always a good idea.
- Mail one copy to the Court or go to the court clerk in person.
- Mail the other copy to the plaintiff’s attorney.
Tennessee’s Statute of Limitations on Debt
In Tennessee, there are different statutes of limitations for different types of debt collection. For example, mortgages have a statute of limitations of six years, while medical debt and credit cards have a statute of limitations of ten years. Once the period has expired, it can no longer pursue you through Court to pay these debts.
Legal Aid Organizations in Tennessee
Low-income residents of Tennessee can get free legal assistance from one of the state’s many legal aid organizations. These groups provide a vital service to those who would otherwise be unable to afford a lawyer. To find an organization near you, consult the list below.
Tennessee Department of Human Services – Legal Aid Services
Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands: (800) 238-1443
Legal Aid of East Tennessee: (865) 637-0484
West TN Legal Services, Inc.: (731) 423-0616
Memphis Area Legal Services, Inc.: (901) 523-8822
So, here’s the review on how to answer a summons for debt collection in Tennessee.
- Deadline: 30 days
- Use SoloSuit’s Answer Form or one of the Court’s paper forms.
Do these steps:
- Answer each issue in the Complaint.
- Assert your affirmative defenses
- File and serve the Answer
Clearone Advantage, Credit Associates, Credit 9, Americor Funding, Tripoint Lending, Lendvia, Simple Path Financial, New Start Capital, Point Break Financial, Sagemore Financial, Money Ladder, Advantage Preferred Financial, LoanQuo, Apply.Credit9, Mobilend