How long does it take to finish a small claims or district court collection case?


From the time you answer the Alabama small claims or district court collection case filed against you, usually you will go to trial in 4-8 weeks.

Here’s an overview of the process:

First, the debt collector (debt buyer) will file suit against you.
This happens all the time. Midland Funding and Portfolio Recovery each file about 100 lawsuits a week in Alabama against Alabama consumers.

Second, you will be served with the lawsuit.
This is where you are personally given the lawsuit. Or it is left with an adult who lives in your house. Or you will receive it by certified mail.

Being served is critically important as this starts the time limit for you to answer . . . .

Third, you have 14 days to answer the small claims or district court lawsuit.
Starting from the time you were served, you will have 14 days to answer.

It is critical that you answer — if you don’t, you can and almost certainly will get hit with a default judgment. This is a real judgment that will lead to garnishment of wages, bank accounts, and even the forced sale of your home and other assets.

You take the answer to the courthouse and file it with the clerk’s office. Send a copy to the collection lawyer and then keep a copy for yourself that has been “stamped filed” so you can prove you actually did file your answer. If you have hired a lawyer, your lawyer will do this for you.

So avoid that default judgment by answering. Once you do, the next step is . . . .

Fourth, you will get a trial date.
Normally this will come in the mail in a week or two after your answer is filed. If you don’t get it, call the court (if you are handling this on your own) to see when the trial date is so you don’t miss it.

As soon as you know when it is, write it on your calendar and request time off from work, arrange for baby sitters, etc. Whatever you need to do to be available that day for court. Each court is different, but you may need to be available all day.

Fifth, you go to trial.
This is normally about 4-8 weeks after you file your answer.

So the total time to complete the collection case varies greatly but once you have been served, we know you have 14 days to answer and then normally about 1-2 months later you will be trying your case.

What do you do now?
When you have been sued by a debt collector, it is a scary thing. Feel free to call us at 205-879-2447 and we can help you think through your options.

You actually have five options — despite all the letters telling you bankruptcy is your only option.

You can read a long article or watch a comprehensive video explaining your options but here are the options in summary format:

1. File bankruptcy — normally this is a terrible idea but occasionally it is the right option.

2. Fight the lawsuit on your own — in small claims and district court this can be a good option.

3. Settle the lawsuit on your own — normally not a good idea as you can hire a lawyer for the same amount and get better results.

4. Hire a lawyer to fight the lawsuit — when you hire us to fight it, our goal is to win the lawsuit and sue the debt collector in federal court.

5. Hire a lawyer to settle the lawsuit — we don’t pay the debt collectors any money but we do agree not to sue them if they will get the account off of your credit report and get rid of the lawsuit.

Call us at 205-879-2447 and we’ll be glad to help you go through these options or even look up on the online court system to see if you have a trial date listed. Just ask for Carolyn and she’ll be glad to help you and if you want to chat with me, she’ll set up a free call so we can go over your options.

Or you can click this button and we’ll get with you right away:
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John Watts


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