What Do I Do If I Have Been Sued And Have Gotten A Summons and Complaint From One Of My Creditors?

What Do I Do If I Have Been Sued And Have Gotten A Summons and Complaint From One Of My Creditors?

NC Bankruptcy Lawyer in Charlotte North Carolina for Chapter 7 / Chapter 13

If you live in North Carolina and you have received a Summons and Complaint from a creditor, then you have been sued.

The person who files a lawsuit is called a plaintiff.

The person who has been sued is called a defendant. The defendant must defend against the allegations and charges in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit may come by regular or certified mail, or it may be delivered by the Sheriff, who will sign a certificate proving that you were served, or got a copy, of the lawsuit. If you try to avoid the service, that doesn't mean you can avoid the lawsuit. Plaintiffs may serve by other methods, some which you may not even be aware of, such as publication in a newspaper. If they can't find you or get service by mail or personal delivery, they can still serve you and get a judgment against you.

The complaint does what it sounds like it does;  it complains to the court about what you have or haven't done.  For example,  you owe a debt and have not paid it. The summons summons you, or calls for you, to file an answer.  For instance, that you admit, or that you deny, that you owe the money to the creditor.

You may be able to defend against the lawsuit. You may have proof that you already paid the debt, they may have sued the wrong person, or numerous other defenses that you might be able to put into your answer to fight the lawsuit. Even if you owe the creditors something, it may be that the creditor can't prove you owe the money or that particular amount of money, or the creditor may have violated collection laws which you can sue them for. It is advisable for you to talk to a lawyer about your defenses and your particular situation.

If you have been sued, you should discuss the lawsuit with an attorney. If you need a little time to make an appointment and speak to the attorney and don't want to worry about a looming deadline, you may be entitled to an extention of time to file an answer.

Mecklenburg County North Carolina has a form you can use for this and norally allows a 30 day extention --click here: Form for Extention of Time To Answer . You should take 3 copies to the Clerk of Court, they will sign the Order, stamp all copies, keep the original and give you back two. You will need to send one of the two copies to the attorney/creditor who sued you.

If you file an answer but don't win the lawsuit, a Judgment will be entered against you.

If you don't file an answer at all, a Judgment will be entered against you by default, and it will go against your property.

Judgments are very serious, and may be held against you and enforced for up to twenty (20) years in North Carolina. Judgments become liens on any real property (such as land, your house, condo, building, etc.) and may even allow the creditor to foreclose on the real property. Even if you don't own a house or land, creditors may be able to take any other property you have, including your money in banks, your cars or any other property you own.

The process of enforcement of the judgment is called "Execution of Judgment".  State law does protect some of your property from your creditors with exemption laws which allow you to claim some of your property as exempt, or protected, from your creditors.

Even if a judgment isn't showing up on your credit report, it may still be valid. Judgments will usually drop off a credit report in seven (7) years, but they are valid for ten years and can be renewed for an additional ten (10) years for the twenty (20) year period.

If you try to sell a house with a judgment lien against it, you may have to pay the judgment off before you can sell. If you have a judgment against you, and you later want to buy a house, you may find that you have to pay off the judgment before a lender will loan you money to buy the house or land.

If a lawsuit has not been filed yet, the creditor can't sue for debts you filed bankruptcy on.  If you file for bankruptcy after you have been sued but before a judgment is entered against you, the bankruptcy will stop the lawsuit and prevent a judgment from being entered against you. 

I recommend that if you plan to file for bankruptcy, it is usually better to file before the judgment is entered.  Additional steps may be required to try remove the lien from your property, and you might pay more for a lawyer to do the additional work. 

If you already have a judgment lien against you, you may still be helped by filing for bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy may avoid, or remove, a judgment from property, and discharge all or part of the debt to the creditor.   However it may not - it depends on the circumstances, the amount of the debt and the value of the property.  You may not be able to remove the judgment lien, or you might just be able to remove part. 

It is a good idea to try to avoid having a judgment against you in the first place and seek legal advice from a good bankruptcy attorney early on.  Be aware that you may not be able to hire an attorney at the last minute who can prepare your bankruptcy documents before a judgment is entered against you so don't wait until you have an emergency to try to seek legal help.

Each situation varies, so it is important that you speak to an experienced bankruptcy lawyer to discuss your particular problem. Try to do this before you have judgments against you so you don't add to your financial problems.

The Law Office of Susanne M. Robicsek
1701 Scott Avenue Charlotte North Carolina 28203
phone:704 / 377-0776
fax: 704 / 377-0775

DISCLAIMER: This message is intended as a general discussion of legal issues and not as a statement of fact, legal advice or a legal opinion; Personal opinions may also be expressed. No attorney-client relationship is created by this message; Do not act or rely upon law-related information in this communication without seeking the advice of an attorney licensed to practice in the relevant area.
The Law Office of Susanne M. Robicsek is
a Federally Designated Debt Relief Agency
under the Bankruptcy Code.
I file bankruptcy cases for people in financial need,
and have been doing so since 1989.

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