If it's not bad enough having too many debts and bills, receiving a SUMMONS is especially stressful!
One of our clients sent me an email this morning and said...
"I received this subpoena last night. Kind of freaking out. What do I do!"
We've been helping people deal with the stress of having to much debt and just not enough money to keep up for many years.
I've written many blogs about what to do with or how to prevent a summons, but wanted to give some insight that may help.
WHY DID YOU RECEIVE THE SUMMONS?
When you miss payments due on your accounts (I'm only talking about unsecured accounts like credit cards, medical bills, etc.) the original creditor will start calling and sending letters.
They may offer a few options for getting you "back on track", but for most people, these don't help or are possible due to your circumstances.
Trying to explain to the agent is usually a waste of time, so I don't advise trying.
If you do, just say something like...
"I've had some things happen and can't make payments right now. I intend to get caught up soon and would appreciate it if you'd stop calling."
After a few months, most likely your account will be transferred, assigned or even sold to a collection agency.
Now you can at least put a stop to the calls:
DEALING WITH DEBT COLLECTORS
There are thousands of companies that make a lot of money collecting bad or old debts! These companies may take accounts on consignment, in order to earn a portion of the money they recover.
Or, they may have just purchased the account for pennies-on-the-dollar from creditors who have given up on trying to collect and have just written off the debt as a loss.
The debt collector most likely will be open to a SETTLEMENT. The amount of settlement is determined by many factors, but on the average, a settlement of 50% to 70% (more or less) may be available.
DON'T IGNORE A SUMMONS !
To many people take the "hide your head in the sand" approach to their financial crisis. Although I certainly understand and appreciate how they feel, the debt is not going to go away!
If the calls and letters from a debt collector go unanswered or returned, after a few months, the debt may be:
- Recalled back to the original creditor
- Transferred to another debt collection agency
- Sold or transferred to a Law Firm that specializes in Debt Collection
If your account lands with #3, and if they cannot reach you or an agreement or settlement cannot me negotiated, they may decide to FILE A CLAIM.
Once a CLAIM is filed with your local county court, a SUMMONS is prepared and sent out for delivery.
The delivery may be by a COUNTY SHERIFF or COMPANY PAID TO DELIVER the summons.
Either way, receiving a summons is (like my client said), kinda "FREAKS YOU OUT!"
Although a summons (or small claims order) may differ, most of them state something like the one my client received:
"YOU ARE HEREBY REQUIRED to appear and defend the Complaint filed against you in the above-entitled cause within 30 days from the date of service of this summons on you, and in case of your failure to do so, Plaintiff (creditor or debt collector you owe) will apply to the court for the relief demanded in the Complaint."
Well, it sure sounds like you have to go to court within 30 days, doesn't it!
But, if you kept reading, it would explain. (I'll paraphrase and explain to save time:)
It says you must "APPEAR". Notice the word "appear" is in italics.
It then goes on to explain what "appear" means:
It basically says that if you wish to give proof of why you do not owe the CLAIM being made, you have 30 days to provide the court with a legal document called a "motion" or "answer". You also have to pay the required filing fee ($165 in this particular county court).
The summons goes on to say that if you have questions you should see an attorney immediately and usually gives a phone number for your state's Bar Lawyer Referral Service.
OK, so you have the summons and understand that you don't have to go to court. What should you do?
The worst thing you can do is ignore the summons!!!!!!!
If you ignore the summons, a JUDGMENT will most likely be awarded to the PLAINTIFF.
If this happens, the attorney for the plaintiff will seek the legal options available to get funds awarded in the judgment. These include:
- Wage Garnishment
- Bank Levy of your bank accounts
- Placing a lien against your home or other property
I don't have the space here to address each of these, and there are things you may be able to do if you are facing one or more of these due to a judgment.
The important point is....
DON'T LET IT GET TO THIS POINT!!!
In most cases, some kind of agreement or solution can be negotiated before or even after a JUDGMENT has been awarded.
You may have to repay the entire balance due to avoid a garnishment, levy or lien.
This will most likely be a STIPULATED AGREEMENT that will be filed with the court.
This basically will say that as long as you make the required payments specified int he Stipulated Agreement, the Plaintiff will not continue to seek the legal options described above.
Once the Stipulated Agreement is completed, a LETTER OF SATISFACTION will be mailed to the court and the judgment is removed.
Now, I've explain a lot. What's the main points?
You have several options to prevent your account from ever getting to becoming a judgment.
- You can't ignore the debt.
- It will not go away!
- If you receive a summons, don't panic!
If you are overwhelmed, we may be able to help: