What are my time limits to respond in a debt collection lawsuit?


What are your time limits to respond when you have been sued by a debt collector?What are my time limits to respond in a debt collection lawsuit?

The majority of these lawsuits take place in state court.

There are 3 types of state court:

What are your time limits to respond?

If you are in small claims or district court, you have 14 days from when you were served. 

In circuit court, you have 30 days from when you were served. 

What does it mean to be served?

Is this when they file the suit? Is it when the processor comes to know on your door?

When does the clock start?

Basically, the clock starts when you receive the lawsuit. 

If someone serves you and hands you the lawsuit, whether it is at your home, your work, or anywhere else, this begins your window to file an answer.

14 days for district or small claims. 

30 days for circuit court.

If you receive the lawsuit by certified mail, the clock typically starts when you sign for it.

This is not something you want to ignore and decline to sign. 

If you try to ignore it, the judge may decide to count the service anyway, or worse, let the other side run an ad in a newspaper that you’ll never see, and that becomes proper service for your case. 

It also can mean when papers are handed to an adult that lives with you. Not someone visiting. Someone actually living with you. 

Even if you never see these papers yourself, this can be considered proper service. 

Often, you will start receiving letters from lawyers before being served that say you’ve been sued or that you may need to think about bankruptcy.

If this starts happening, pay attention to these letters. Call your court.

If you live in Alabama you can call our firm at 205-879-2447. We will look you up on the court system to see if you have actually been sued. 

The court system will also tell us if you have been served and when you were served.

You may not know that you have been served – but at least you know that the judge considers you served. 

Once you are considered served, the clock has started running. 

14 days in district or small claims court.

30 days in circuit court. 

You absolutely want to make sure you answer within this time limit. 

If you don’t answer, they could get a default judgment against you.

If you live in Alabama and you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us.

We would be glad to help you in any way we can.

You can reach us by phone at 1-205-879-2447, or you can fill out a contact form and we will get in touch with you quickly. 

Thanks for reading!

-John Watts


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