How Do I Defend Myself in Court Against a Debt Collector in Pennsylvania?
Being in debt is not an enjoyable experience in any way whatsoever. It can make you feel like you are beholden to someone else and not exactly free to do whatever you want. Even though you may be working to pay off a debt, the reality is that a creditor or debt collector may try to initiate a lawsuit against you to have the court compel you to pay them. Being on the receiving end of a lawsuit can be a scary experience, but you don’t have to go through it alone.
You need experienced legal representation to defend yourself against a debt collection lawsuit. Fortunately, our attorneys can provide just that. We have represented people with debt issues before, and we can work hard to make sure you have the best defense possible against debt collectors who have stepped out of line. There are a number of ways that you can defend against a debt collection claim, ranging from fighting the lawsuit at trial to filing for bankruptcy and more.
For a free, confidential analysis of your situation, call our Pennsylvania bankruptcy attorneys from Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (215) 701-6519.
Can I Be Sued for Being in Debt in Pennsylvania?
You can be sued for being in debt in Pennsylvania, but only for a certain amount of time. Statutes of limitation prevent you from being sued for certain things after a certain period of time. In the case of debt collection lawsuits, the statutory period is four years under 13 Pa.C.S. § 2725. This timer runs from when the first missed payment takes place.
The statute of limitations can be used as a defense against a debt collection lawsuit. If the debt collector suing you has waited too long to file, they may be out of luck. However, it is important to remember that certain things can “toll” or prolong the statutory period. For example, making a payment after a missed payment may extend the statutory period.
What to Do After Receiving a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Pennsylvania
There are some things you can do right away to start fighting against a debt collection lawsuit. These steps are very important and need to be taken quickly so that you have the best chance of success in a debt collection lawsuit.
Get in Touch with an Attorney
Once you know you are being sued, you need to talk to our Pennsylvania debt lawyers as soon as possible. It is not advisable to take other steps without legal counsel. The law does allow you to represent yourself in court, but doing so will put you at an extreme disadvantage and virtually guarantee an unfavorable outcome.
Respond to the Complaint
Once you have obtained legal counsel, you have to respond to the complaint. If you do not respond to the complaint, it will have an adverse effect on the outcome. In Pennsylvania, you have 20 days to respond to a complaint for a debt collection lawsuit.
In responding to the complaint with your “answer,” you are quite literally answering the claims put forth in the plaintiff’s complaint. You can admit to, deny, or simply ignore anything that the plaintiff has brought up in their complaint. Additionally, the answer is where you would put your initial defense to any of the plaintiff’s claims if you have any. Our lawyers can help you with this process.
Once your answer is complete, you need to file it with the court and send a copy of it to the plaintiff so their lawyers can examine it.
Bankruptcy Can Stop Debt Collection Lawsuits in Pennsylvania
There also may be ways that you can avoid a debt collection lawsuit entirely. One of the primary ways of doing this is by filing for bankruptcy. The prospect of doing this may be scary, but, in reality, filing for bankruptcy is not as definitively awful as common parlance would lead you to believe. The main purpose of bankruptcy is not to leave you destitute, but to clear your slate so that you can start over. Essentially, the court is taking over the debt payment process so that you can focus on getting all debts paid. The court does this through an “automatic stay.” This is a court order that stops all forms of debt collection against you immediately. A debt collector can not even call you once an automatic stay is in place. This helps the court take over the process.
Depending on the chapter of bankruptcy you file under, the process will be different.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most streamlined, quickest, and least precise form of bankruptcy. Part of the reason that Chapter 7 bankruptcy is so efficient is that it is fairly indiscriminate in which assets it sells of to pay off debts. Therefore, you need to be prepared to have any asset potentially liquidated to pay off debtors. For these reasons, Chapter 7 is useful for individuals either with few assets or large amounts of debt. No matter how much debt or how little assets you have, once everything has been liquidated, all your debt is gone, whether it was able to be paid off with your assets or not.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a much more precise, and therefore longer, process. Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are able to name certain assets as “off limits” from liquidation. However, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can take a long time to finish, so you will need to be comfortable with being bankrupt for an extended period of time.
Call Our Pennsylvania Debt Attorneys Today
Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates has Delaware County debt attorneys ready to take your calls and give free case reviews at the number (215) 701-6519.