Maybe you knew it was coming, or maybe you didn’t. It may have followed in line after months of collection calls, or it might be a surprise. It might not even be a debt that belongs to you. Regardless, you’ve been sued by a credit card company. Now what to do?
1. Treat it seriously. Do not ignore it.
First and most importantly: Take this lawsuit seriously! A lot of people ignore lawsuits. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it — that’s about the worst thing you can do. Some people ignore them because they are just depressed, maybe in denial. Others might be too busy to deal with it. However, doing nothing is probably the worst thing you can do. If you do nothing, the credit card company that sued you will obtain a judgment against you by default, for whatever amount they are asking for, and — unless for some rare reason you can get that default overturned —they will be able to collect on that judgment, in many cases (at least in Florida), for up to 20 years.
2. Take a deep breath, then a few minutes to get organized
Next, realize that this is not the end of the world. You can — and will — get through this. So pull yourself together and take just a few minutes to get organized. First, make sure you have all the lawsuit papers. Keep them together, and keep them safe where juice won’t be spilled on them or they won’t fall off a table. Look at the papers to determine who is suing you. If you recognize the name, think for a second on whether you have any documents related to that lawsuit: collection letters, bills, statements, etc. If you do, make sure you don’t destroy them. Preserve them, and take a note of what you have.
3. Talk to an experienced credit-card defense lawyer
Next, you should get professional legal advice. Although technically and legally you can represent yourself in the lawsuit (unless your company has been sued, in which case your company must be represented by an attorney), it is not recommended. The law firms that file credit-card debt cases are well-oiled machines and know what they’re doing, and they are hoping that you will ignore it (see No. 1) or will represent yourself. Litigation can be quite complicated and involves many rules, laws, challenges, nuances, and technicalities. Don’t assume that you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, that there’s nothing that you can do, or that you will just tell your story to the judge and win your case. Even if you end up not retaining an attorney, you should at the least get a consultation with an experienced lawyer who can review the lawsuit papers and help you determine your best options.
4. Meet your deadlines and court appearances
Whether you hire an attorney or not, to avoid defaulting, you will need to abide by all deadlines and make all necessary appearances. Assuming you were sued by a credit card company in Florida, chances are your case either is in one of a few courts:
- Florida Circuit Civil – if the amount you’ve been sued for is more than $15,000 (the case number will contain the letters “CA”)
- Florida County Civil – If the amount is at least $5000 but less than $15,000 (case number will have a “CC”)
- Florida Small Claims – if the amount is less than $5000 (case number will contain a “SC”)
If your case is in Circuit or County Civil, you will need to file a written response within 20 days. The written response can be either a motion to dismiss or an answer. Your written response should contain your affirmative defenses; if it fails to contain your defenses, you may waive your defenses. If, on the other hand, your case is in Small Claims, you will need to take a note of the date on the Notice of Mediation/Pre-Trial Conference and ensure that you appear— and not a minute late (a safe bet is to be at least 30 minutes early). If you fail to file a response or show up at mediation/pre-trial, your case will likely result in a default.
Have you been sued by a credit card company?
If you have been sued by a credit card company, the experienced attorneys at Cynthia Conlin & Associates may be able to help you. We can review your lawsuit and determine what your best action plan may be. You may have strong, viable defenses you’re not even aware of. Contact us or call 407-965-5519.