Do not panic when you are served with a lawsuit from a credit card company. The key to remaining calm is understanding your options in defending yourself and your obligations regarding the debt. The best defense option depends greatly on your financial situation and if you have other debts in default or on the way.
Answer the Lawsuit
File a timely answer with the court once you are served with written notice of the suit. This prevents your creditor from obtaining a default judgment against you and requires the creditor to appear in court and actually prove you owe the debt, the amount owed on the account and your delinquency in making payments. Failure to answer the lawsuit in writing allows your credit card company to win while you lose all ability to defend yourself in court.
Bankruptcy Automatic Stay
If you have declared bankruptcy and your creditor is attempting to sue you, the creditor is violating a federal law preventing any creditor from continuing collection practices against you while your bankruptcy is in process. Answering the lawsuit as described above can set the wheels in motion for the court to discover your bankruptcy filing and kick the lawsuit out of court. If you believe a credit card company's lawsuit is the start of many suits against you for defaulted accounts, consider filing for bankruptcy if the option is available. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can expunge unsecured debts like credit cards while chapter 13 bankruptcy can restructure your debt allowing you to pay it off over a three-year to five-year span.
The Fair Debt Collection Act
If your creditor has committed violations of the Fair Debt Collection Act, bringing these violations to light in court can not only sway a judgment in your favor but may land your creditor in some legal trouble. Violations of the act include conducting debt collection calls after 9 p.m. and before 9 a.m., threatening you or using foul language or impersonating law enforcement in an attempt to collect payment. Your creditor can be fined for each separate violation.
Contact an Attorney
Contacting a consumer attorney licensed to practice in your state can help put you at ease by having a professional on your side. An attorney can assist you in going over the best routes of defense in your case and help you avoid a debt judgment. These can include approaching your creditor with an offer to settle the debt, agreeing to a new payment schedule or settling the account for only a portion of the total debt owed. If your creditor believes the chances of securing a judgment against you are minimal, the company may be receptive to any of these agreements.
Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.