Collection agencies and credit card companies sue you to collect on your defaulted credit card debt after failing to convince you to give them your money voluntarily. Contrary to what you might think, the best thing you can possibly do to respond to a summons is to show up to all your court dates. Many collection suits are dismissed simply when the defendant shows up. This happens because many defendants never show up, so they lose their case by default. This makes it relatively cost-effective for the collection agencies to allow disputed cases to be dismissed.
Study the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) governed by the Federal Trade Commission. This document details the laws that debt collectors must follow in the conduct of their business. If you can produce documentation proving that the collectors suing you violated the FDCA, you can get the lawsuit thrown out of court and even be awarded damages. Research the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as well. If the lender violated that law, they will be liable for damages.
Respond to any court summons promptly. If you do not show up for your court date, you will lose your case by default, and the company suing you will get a judgment against you. In many cases, they will be then legally entitled to garnish your wages, confiscate money from your bank account, or otherwise seize your property to cover your debts.
Consider filing for a Motion for Extension of Time to delay the lawsuit by 30 days. If your motion is accepted, it will give you more time to prepare your defense and gather all relevant documents.
Consider contacting a lawyer to assist in your legal defense. Although it is not necessary to win a case, it may improve your chances of successfully defending yourself.
Request that the lender produce proof that you owe the debt. This is not always an effective legal defense, but if they can't produce documents proving it in court, they will have their case thrown out.
Demonstrate that a debt has gone past the statute of limitations in your state (if it has). If you can show that, the case will be dismissed. If you have successfully filed for bankruptcy, bring your filing documents to court to prove that the debt should be legally discharged.
Show documentation proving that the debt collector or credit card company has violated the FDCPA or FCRA if possible. If you can prove a violation or multiple violations, the debt will be declared void and the lender will be required to pay you damages for each one.
Settle your case with the agent representing the credit card company or debt collector. Lenders are very reluctant to take a case all the way to trial, and have a high incentive for settling the case for less than the total amount of the debt owed. Get any agreement to settle the debt in writing from the agent. Any verbal agreement is not enforceable.