Should I Get a Lawyer if a Creditor in Florida Sues Me?
When creditors come knocking it might be your first impulse to turn off the lights, shut the blinds and pretend like you’re not home. But if you get served papers or a suit is filed against you, it is in your best interest to deal with the issue quickly and correctly.
Don’t Ignore It!
The first thing to do is respond to the notice. If you fail to respond, the collector could open up a default judgment against you. This opens you up to new avenues of collection, like wage garnishment, placing a lien on your home or even withdrawing money directly from your bank account. To add to this, collection agencies could also begin tacking on attorney and court fees to your account.
Should You Hire an Attorney?
There are cases when hiring an attorney is an absolute must and cases when it might be more unclear. It is never a bad idea to reach out to an attorney and seek their counsel. Many attorneys even offer free consultations, we certainly do.
When faced with a lawsuit from a creditor you are looking at three options.
- Settle up with the creditor through a default judgment
- Defend yourself in the suit
- Hire an attorney
It’s good to know you have options, but your avenue will depend on a few factors.
Debt Owed, No Defense
If you owe the debt and you have no defense or counterclaim, then it is possible that hiring a lawyer after the initial consultation would only add to the debt you already owe, but this is why that initial consultation is so important. You can do your due diligence in the process by challenging the company’s right to sue, pushing back on the burden of proof or using the statute of limitations (Link to blog: The Statute of Limitations for a Breach of Contract in Florida) in your favor. But if you don’t have a legitimate defense, then you will just have to find a way to settle.
Defense and Counterclaims
If you can provide a sound reason for why you may not owe the money, then you have a defense. Boiled down, a defense provides proof that either the creditor cannot prove its case against you or you do not owe the money.
Here are some common defenses:
- Improper service of the summons
- Identity theft or mistaken identity
- Statute of limitations
- Being an authorized user
- Payment was made
- Amount is in dispute
A consult with an attorney can make it clear whether you have an arguable defense. But if you have any doubt in your mind at all about whether you have a defense, it is in your best interest to reach out for legal counsel.
Countersuits can be filed when a creditor or collection agency violates the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Florida offers additional protection with the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA), which safeguards you from types of abuse, harassment and deceptive debt collection tactics.
If your rights have been violated, you can file a countersuit and potentially be awarded damages, attorneys’ fees and court costs.
Creditor and collections lawsuits are among the most common cases in court. They’re also one of the most anxiety inducing. We want you to know that you have rights and if you feel intimidated or harassed, please contact us at 305-358-7991 so we can get you feeling safe again.