What Happens If I Get Sued?

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Many of my clients come to me after they’ve been sued by a debt collector for a past-due credit card bill. Other times, the threat of “being taken to court” spurs the call. The client is often worried about being sent to jail. After all, the sheriff hand-delivered the summons and complaint. Next time he shows up, it will be to handcuff me and take me to the Big House!

The first thing I do in such cases is to reassure the client that you can’t be locked up for failing to pay a debt. Debtors’ prisons have been gone for over 150 years. You may have a judgment entered against you, you may have your wages garnisheed, but you won’t be thrown in the slammer.

So what happens if you get sued for a money judgment or in small claims? The process will be different in other states, but here is how it works in Wisconsin:

- The creditor will have you served with a summons and complaint. You will probably be personally served by a sheriff’s deputy. You will have about three weeks to answer the complaint.

- If you have a defense to the lawsuit (“I don’t owe the money because…”), you will file your answer and the judge will schedule a hearing. You aren’t required to answer. In fact, I usually recommend that clients ignore the summons and complaint. In most cases, the clients admit they owe the money; they just can’t pay it. If you ignore it and don’t file an answer, the creditor will file a motion and obtain a default judgment. You won’t have to appear in court at all.

- Once the creditor gets its judgment, it will try to collect on the judgment. This will usually involve garnishment of wages, bank accounts, or other non-exempt personal property. If the creditor sends you an Order for Financial Disclosure, you MUST complete it and return it. You won’t have to send any money, but failing to comply with this court order may land you in jail for contempt of court.

It’s possible that you don’t have any non-exempt wages or property for creditors to take. A bankruptcy attorney can explain exemptions and the concept of being uncollectible.

If you’ve been sued and a creditor is threatening to garnishee your wages, speak to an attorney soon. A bankruptcy filing can prevent the judgment and the resulting wage garnishment. If the judgment has already been entered, the bankruptcy filing can wipe it out and immediately stop any garnishments. A small claims or money judgment is no different from any other general unsecured debt and it is typically dischargeable.

No matter what the debt collector tells you on the phone, you cannot be jailed for defaulting on a debt. The person telling you differently is either a scammer trying to rip you off or an unethical debt collector lying to scare some money out of you.

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158 Comments

  1. I was sued for $4000 by a girl i used to date. i wasnt able to make the court appearence and wrote the judge, asked for a different court date and found out AFTER the hearing I was guilty. She claims she paid $2500 towards my schooling, and I have proof that the Wisconsin GI bill is paying for my schooling. I asked for the case to be re opened and they denied me. I sent the garsihment papers to the hag..but 15 days late. Now I have a contempt hearing. what are my options. I cant afford a lawyer being a Fulltime Student.

    • Thanks for reading. I can’t give legal advice over the Internet, but I can give you some general information.

      It sounds like your ex-girlfriend obtained a default judgment (see above) because you failed to answer the small claims suit. This judgment may be dischargeable in bankruptcy. Alternatively, you may be uncollectible if you are unemployed and have no non-exempt assets. An attorney can give you advice once he or she hears all the specifics of your situation.

      If a contempt hearing has been scheduled, your options are (1) attend or (2) don’t attend. See the info in bold above regarding Orders for Financial Disclosure. If you don’t attend, the judge will likely issue a warrant for your arrest. If you attend, you will need to explain to the judge why you disregarded a Court order.

      • I was brought to court and had a judgement for a credit card bill about 5 years ago. I could not prove it was not mine so the judge made a motion for final judgement. I have not paid and now 6 years later I am being sued for wage garnishment. Do I have to worry about jail or losing my job for violating a court order? It’s a losing battle to fight it. Any advice?

        • I don’t give legal advice online, but as a general matter, you won’t go to jail for failing to pay a judgment. The creditor will likely get paid via the garnishment.

          I haven’t heard of employers firing people because of wage garnishments, but whether that’s allowed will depend on state law and your employment contract.

          You should contact a local attorney to find out if you have any defenses to this garnishment or if there are other ways to deal with the debt.

  2. I have a bank credit card debt that I had not been able to pay off for four years. I had multiple credit card debts at the time, and I was able to pay off two of them but this particular one I wasn’t able to. Because it was a large amount of money, it was passed on to a collection agency, and they started harassing me with phone calls and letters saying I had owed them a certain amount of money.

    I’m wondering what my next steps ought to be, because I don’t believe I can afford to lose the money right now. Will bankruptcy help? What does bankruptcy do to my credit? Are there other steps to use besides bankruptcy? Am I just able to lengthen the amount of time I get to pay off the money if I’m able to save up for the next half year or so?

    • Thanks for reading. In my opinion, your next step should be to consult with a local bankruptcy attorney.

      Answering your questions:
      1 – Bankruptcy may help. If the debt is discharged, you’ll be able to devote more of your income to necessary living expenses.
      2 – If you file bankruptcy, your credit score will take a hit. However, being in default for four years is also hurting your score. A colleague once said, “if you think a credit score is valuable, take it to the grocery store and see how much you can buy with it.” In my opinion, unmanageable debt is a bigger problem than a poor credit score. It also causes more real-world problems.
      3 – Depending on where you live and your complete debt situation, bankruptcy alternatives may be in your best interests. Your attorney can explain your options and advise which makes the most sense in your case.
      4 – Payment plans may be possible, either through Chapter 13 bankruptcy or some alternative. Again, your attorney can give advice specific to your situation.

      I hope these general comments help. Keep in mind that I am not licensed to practice in any state other than Wisconsin. None of this should be construed as legal advice. I can give general information, but only a local attorney who has discussed your case in detail with you can give you legal advice. Good luck!

  3. I just found out im getting sued for a private student loan for 40k. I have no way of paying this. im working a minimum wage job and only make about 4-7k a year (well below the poverty line.) Im on foodstamps, and at the end of the month there isnt always even enough money to pay the rent/keep the lights on. What am I supposed to do. It’s a student loan so I can’t file for bankruptcy, and affording a lawyer is flat out. I have no friends/family to fall back on to help pay for this, or to support me if they start taking money out of my paychecks. If they do that, Ill end up homeless.

    • On those facts, it sounds as if you may be uncollectible. If this is true, creditors may sue you, but it’s unlikely they will be able to garnishee your wages while you’re making $7,000/year. Assuming you owe this debt, the judgment creditor will likely not be able to collect from you until your financial situation improves.

      Bankruptcy *may* help. While discharging student loans is never easy, it is possible. If you’re interested in learning about your options, I recommend you speak to a local bankruptcy lawyer.

      Note that nothing on this site is intended as legal advice; it is simply general information. For legal advice specific to your individual situation, you need to speak to a local attorney.

  4. Please help..
    7yrs ago i got sued by a friend i went to court and all i remember was that a lady just asked me if i knew the person that was suing me and that when i went in front of the judge that just dont say anything n something else. But all i remember is that the judge just told me to have my Distance from my friend and not to contact her ever again… i went to see my background n i see i have a judgement bcuz of that so what exactly do o need to do and does that really affect me? Also after all these yrs i havent had any letters sent to me of if i need to pay or not. Even on court they didn’t say or gaved me nething should i worry?? Thanks

    • If you don’t know whether or not you owe any money, you need to contact a local attorney to check out the court docket for you. A credit report may also help you to determine what (if anything) you owe.

  5. Please need help, I got sue over $2000 I got loan a year aog and I wans able to pay it all back cuz I got laid off my job. So hes sueing for the entire amount and I have no money nor do I own and property, I’m broke…I can’t pay for it what can I do about it I can’t pay for it can I be aressted?

    • No, you can’t be arrested unless there was some kind of fraud involved. But the creditor may be able to garnishee wages or levy against any non-exempt property you own. This is a state-specific question, so I recommend you speak to a local attorney as soon as possible.

  6. I am now aware of a lawsuit against me for about 4000 for overdue and apparently unpaid utility bill accrued during my marrige. I had NO clue of this. Man showed up with a “stack of papers” at my old address. I have become disabled from work in the last three years, have no source of real income, aside what family can help me with. I am hoping on SSDI. The man told my sis that things in the home where I live now (home purchased from worker comp closing, co-owned w/hubby) can be sold?? All I have is this house and a vehicle. What is my risk of having them barge in and take the few things we have acquired? Is my husband (disabled too…) at risk? Is there any way I can protect the little we do have?? Any advice would be wonderful. the bill was gained in NJ… We now live in PA. Do state laws vary? Thank You.

    • Thanks for reading.

      Yes, state laws vary and this is a state-specific question. You should contact a local attorney to learn what exemptions are available to you, whether you are collection-proof, and whether bankruptcy is a viable option. Good luck!

  7. My exboyfriend is suing me over household and jewelry possessions. One in particular was a ring he gave me for our anniversary gift (he claims it was as an engagement ring). He is taking me to court because he has the time and mnoney and is doing this for spite. My only concern because I have never been in trouble before is what can happen to me. Can I be arressted, asked to pay him money (I am on SSDI and have no other income except for my daughters child support which is for her because she is only 12) I dont own a house and I have no other source of income. If they demand I have to pay him money how does that work since I dont have any money and how long can this request for money be held against me. Is this like a judgement and it goes away after so many years, or bankruptsy or expunged from my records. Please help me with my questions so that I know what I am up against.

    • Thanks for contributing. I can’t give legal advice on the Internet, but I can give you some general information. Keep in mind that this information may not pertain to your particular case. For advice relating to your specific situation, you should contact a local attorney.

      - If you are sued, you may have a judgment entered against you (which is an order that you pay money), but you will generally not be arrested. Exceptions to this rule: ignoring a court order to appear for a supplemental examination, ignoring a court order to submit a financial disclosure, etc.

      - If a money judgment is entered against you but you cannot pay and have no nonexempt assets, you may be uncollectible. This means that the judgment is valid, but the creditor cannot garnishee wages or levy against your property. Your local attorney can explain what assets are exempt in your state.

      - If a judgment for replevin (aka repossession) is entered against you, the sheriff may be employed to recover the specific asset. A judgment for replevin would be unusual on these facts, but your local attorney can explain more once he/she sees the complaint.

  8. I have a summons for a hearing , should i go to it since i have gone to an attorney, should i answer it , or call the lawyer suing to tell them i am filing bankruptcy and too call my attorney .

    • In my cases, sometimes we defend and sometimes we let the suit go to a default judgment. You should do whatever your attorney advised.

  9. I live in Florida and am 25 years old, I just got served papers the other day telling me to come to court (the process server told me if I don’t I’ll be held in contempt) I have 2 kids, no job, and no assets. My boyfriend works but I have 0 income. I don’t have money for an attorney and was wondering what you believe would happen if I went to court and simply told them I don’t have any money to pay? I am considering bankruptcy but was told it couldn’t happen for awhile cause I would have to do like 180 days of counseling before I could even file.

    • I can’t say what would happen. I’m not licensed to practice law in Florida, and do not know what Florida law provides.

      However, I can tell you that you got inaccurate information regarding bankruptcy. You do need to complete credit counseling. See this post for more information. The counseling must take place within 180 days of filing the bankruptcy, but it typically only takes an hour or so.

  10. My friend and I signed up with a phone contract under her name. We fell out and she cut my phone off and is now saying I owe her the disconnect fee for over $300. Can she take me to court? And should I be held accountable since I didn’t want my phone turned off in the first place?

    • If your ex-friend sues you, you can either defend yourself or hire an attorney. Consider whether it’s more cost effective to simply pay the claim than to defend.

  11. I have land that has my name and my ex-boyfriends name on the deed. He just called and said he is being sued by a credit card company and wants me to sign my name off the land so he can sell it to pay the credit card company and he will give me some money as soon as he sells it. I’m wondering what will happens to my half if he really does gets sued and they win.

    • First, this is not legal advice. It is simply a generic answer to a hypothetical issue. For legal advice specific to your individual situation, you should speak to a local attorney.

      In Wisconsin, a judgment becomes a lien on any real estate owned by the debtor in the county in which the judgment is docketed. If the real estate is owned as joint tenants, the lien is only effective as to the judgment debtor’s interest. I don’t know if the law is similar in other states.

  12. I have already filed bankruptcy but has received a default judgement from one of my creditors. Do I need to appear to the court hearing? my lawyer said no and that they will send something to the courts. I just want to be sure I will not be held in contempt.

    • I can’t give legal advice over the Internet, and I certainly would never second-guess your attorney. After all, he/she knows your situation and I have never met you.

      Unless you have reason not to trust your bankruptcy lawyer, you should take his or her advice.

      • Thanks. Should people respond to default judgements?

        • Generally, a default judgment is entered if you failed to answer the complaint. So it’s usually too late to respond after the default judgment has been entered. But again, only your attorney can give you legal advice about your specific situation.

  13. I am currently being sued from a collecting agency for past unpaid CC debt for $3,200. I am currently working overseas and received the summons notice surely 30 days after the original filed date. My address is my parents home in US. I reside abroad due to work and not making much. But my current wages are deposited to my US bank account. Im already late for responding to the summons, what can i do? Will they have power to garnish my wages? I would deeply appreciate some advice.

    • If you don’t answer the complaint, the creditor will likely get a default judgment against you. Whether or not the creditor can garnishee your wages will depend on state law and whether your employer does business in the United States. A bank levy may also be possible, depending on your state exemption for bank accounts. I recommend you speak to a local attorney for more information.

  14. I think I will probably b sued for an unpaid loan to the tune of 2200.00. I was laid off from my job, have no funds to pay, will I b arrested???? Will they my property, washer, dryer something to try to pay for that loan???? Oh and should I ignore or take the complaint when the Sheriff serves it????

    • It all depends on where you live. See the original post for the process in Wisconsin. I’m not licensed to practice in any other state and don’t know the relevant laws in those states.

      In Wisconsin, you can’t be arrested for simply defaulting on a debt (absent fraud), you have exemptions available to protect most of your assets, and it would do no good to hide from law enforcement when they are trying to serve you with a summons and complaint. For information specific to your situation in your state, I recommend you speak with a local attorney.

  15. I applied for a cash advance loan. I didn’t receive a PENNY. Now I have numerous cash loan companies calling me, ALL ARE FOREIGN. What is bugging me is that now they’re saying I’m being sued. I applied on Friday and didn’t go through with it. I know that in order to be sued you have to be served, they immediately asked for my lawyers information. I declined and said that if they keep contacting me with false allegations and fraud on their part I will be forced to take legal action. If they even SEND something I will counter sue. But I feel that this is just some sort of scam.

    • Thanks for sharing.

      I think you’re right about it being a scam. If it is, you probably won’t hear from them again. They’ll just go after easier targets.

  16. I recently Contacted an attorney’s office in order to pay a judgment that was on my credit report from 2008. When I called they said That in order to talk to me about my debt they needed my permission to remove the no contact order that I had put on file so I said that was okay. I also found out I had an older judgement with them as well. I asked why this older judgement wasn’t on my credit report? They said they are a non reporting attorneys office to the credit bureaus??? I asked then why is this judgement from 2008 on my credit report? The attorney didn’t rely answer me? So I didn’t pay off the judgement because on my credit report it says I owe $1075, and the attorney says with their interest I owe over $1700!!! So I didn’t pay the debt because I didn’t have the money. A week later they called me and left me a message, I have the money to pay the debt now. If I call and pay the judgement from 2008, is there anyway to only pay the $1075? And put the no contact order back on my record so they can’t attempt to collect the older judgement??? Also can this old judgement go on my credit report? Or can they try and take money out of my bank account without my permission? Because they asked where I banked?

    • All of your questions need to be answered by a local attorney familiar with the applicable state law.

      In general, all settlements are negotiable, so it may be possible to settle the $1700 judgment for $1000. And most judgments will remain on your credit report for seven years, so that may be why the older judgment isn’t showing up.

  17. My ‘ex’ won a default judgement in small claims court against me, and I filled out the required ‘Financial Disclosure Statement’ and sent it back to him. I have no job and I am on Food Assistance. I received a letter from him today telling me that if I don’t pay him by April 1st, he will file contempt charges on me….Is that even right?

    • If a divorce agreement ordered you to pay and you failed to comply, you might be held in contempt. If it’s a run-of-the-mill small claims judgment, I don’t see how failing to pay the judgment could rise to the level of contempt, at least here in Wisconsin.

      As always, this is not legal advice. It is simply intended as general information. For legal advice specific to your individual situation, you need to speak with a local attorney.

  18. I had to sue my ex because it was the only way he would reveal his retirement account details, so that my DRO might be prepared. I won, and was awarded $1k attorney fees. Of course, the ex has not paid, though he was ordered to over three months ago. He is on disability, SSDI, and is awaiting his disability retirement case to be concluded. He does drive a personal vehicle, and I gave him all ownership, title, and interest in our marital home at time of the divorce. I am pondering whether I should pursue him for contempt and what options I might have that are most likely to result in my getting the $1k out of him.. He does not pay child support. My child is on SSI and SSDI. I am disabled, as well. Somewhere, I have read about people taking out liens on houses/cars, etc? Is that expensive, and would I need to hire an attorney to get it done?

    • You should speak with your family law attorney. He or she will be able to tell you how/if you can collect on the debt.

  19. I was sued in 2006. Basically it was a petty bar fight that has now ruined my life. I have no money, 5 kids, and I was ordered to pay $15,000. Now it’s $20,000. I can’t bankrupt because it’s tort. What do I do?

    • I can’t give legal advice on this blog. For advice specific to your individual situation, you need to meet with a local attorney. I recommend you contact a bankruptcy attorney soon. Not all torts are nondischargeable in bankruptcy, and many people are uncollectible even without bankruptcy protection.

  20. I was sued by a debt collector in 2009 and had a judgement against me. It’s been over 4 years since the court date and have not been able to pay. Now the account is handed off to another debt collector trying to collect. My states statute of limitations is 4 years. Can I be sued again for this debt? What will happen? Please help

    • That’s a question for your local attorney. In most jurisdictions, a judgment is good for a longer period of time than the Statute of Limitations for collections. It’s possible that the judgment creditor sold its judgment to another agency and that agency is now trying to collect on the judgment. Again, you need to speak to a local attorney for legal advice. I only give general information not specific to any individual case on this blog.

  21. I am being sued by my ex on a vehicle that was never in my name nor do I still have or own. Does she have an legal rights to sue me being that I never had anything legally in my name?

    • That’s a very fact-specific question that only your attorney can answer. In general, anyone can sue anyone for anything. Whether the plaintiff will win or what the damage award will be is a different question.

      In this case, your attorney will want to know why you are being sued, how much she is asking for, what happened to the vehicle, if you ever signed anything agreeing to repay the money, if you deny owing the money, etc. Try to have as much of that information available when you meet with him/her.

  22. I just recently found out that I’m being sued for just under $1,000 for a loan I took out back in September 201/ with First Franklin Financial. I was unable to make any payments (I took out the loan of $650 for medical bills) because I got two speeding tickets and had to pay those and court fees shortly after, to prevent from going to jail. I work but don’t make much, I’ve fallen behind in my car payments, what can I do to settle this without further damages to my credit and without racking up more costs in court fees?? Help!!

    • I can’t advise you online. Depending on where you live, what other debt you have, your income, your household size, etc., bankruptcy or some other debt-relief solution may be in your best interests. For advice specific to your individual situation, you should speak with a local bankruptcy attorney.

  23. Hi. A judgment was just recently placed on my husbands credit report from our homeowners association. This case is currently in civil court. We initially disputed this charge we we first received the notice, but the court office states that they never received our letter. My husband is currently in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. I want to contact his bankruptcy lawyer, but I wanted to know if I could still fight this before I shell out more attorney fees. Doesn’t the HOA have to ask the court for a relief of stay before pursuing this debt? We live in Kentucky by the way.

    • That’s a question for your bankruptcy attorney. Generally, a creditor must get relief from the stay before suing to collect. But there are exceptions. Your attorney can probably resolve the issue more efficiently than you can, so I recommend you contact him/her as soon as possible.

  24. I was supposed to be a model for an agency in the States (I’m in Canada) with promises of money, all-expense paid trips and hotel rooms, etc. I never signed a single sheet of paper that said I would work for them. I was never sent any money for the photos I did send. He fired me a few days ago because of school and sickness, I have no time to work. Today he messaged me wanting to see work again. I told him I’m done, that I don’t want to work for him. He is threatening to sue me for the money he apparently invested into me. Again, I’ve signed absolutely nothing. It was all verbal. He doesn’t have any of my banking information or even my SIN number. Without my signature on paperwork, can he actually sue me?

    • While a verbal contract *can* be enforceable, I don’t know enough about your case to give an opinion one way or the other. I also am not licensed to practice law in Canada and my comments based on Canadian law would be of no use to you.

      I recommend you contact a local attorney who can give you legal advice. Your attorney can tell you if the contract is enforceable, whether your age at the time of entering into the alleged contract is relevant, and can look into whether this agent is legit.

  25. Mr. Nason

    I’ve read how you were able to help many of the writers, so hopefully you can shed some light on my situation. About ten years ago, I was in high school. My parents had just split, so I acted out. I hung out with the wrong crowd and got arrested, my mom without thinking hired a really expensive lawyer to handle my case, whom later sued me for non-payment. However these lawyers left me in jail twice without doing anything. But I understand that most cases the judge is going to side with the lawyers. I don’t have a problem with that… It was a long time ago, I’m over it. It took me a long time to get back up for the fall I created at a young age. I’m back in school finishing a degree before I head to Commercial Pilot Academy! I’ve contacted these lawyers many time asking if they could work with me on any way, I’ve offered 33% I saved for an entire year to offer them $5,000 to removed the lien against me to rebuild my credit.. However they won’t work with me whatsoever, which really is tough considering I haven’t been paying them. Cause they want payments of $1000 each month for a year and half… Can’t do that! Is there any options I have? I will follow though on everything you suggest, I deseparately seek a normal life again…

    Sincerely,
    S. Adams

    • Thanks for reading, but I don’t give legal advice on this blog, only general information. For advice specific to your individual situation, you need to speak with a local attorney.

      Without telling you what is best in your situation, I can say that if you can’t pay the debt in full or pay a negotiated smaller sum in full satisfaction of the debt, a bankruptcy filing *might* be the answer. Run-of-the-mill small claims judgments are typically discharged in either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Depending on where you live, you might also have some state law remedies, such as Wisconsin’s Chapter 128 debt amortization. A bankruptcy filing could be the smartest financial move in your situation, as it could give you the fresh start you’re looking for. The NACBA Attorney Finder can help you find a consumer bankruptcy attorney in your area who will discuss your case and tell you if bankruptcy makes sense for you. Good luck!

  26. I recently received a call from my ex girlfriend saying her aunt is going to sue me for $500.. I year ago I bailed my ex out jail with 500 dollars cash. I received a check in the mail from the court with my name refunding me the 500 dollars. I cashed and spent the 500 dollars. Her aunt claims the 500 is hers and therefore is suing me for cashing the check and using. Is this something to be worried about?

    • Anyone *can* sue. The question is whether the suit will have any merit or whether the plaintiff will win. Without knowing the facts (why does the aunt feels the refund belongs to her? Is she represented by a lawyer?), no attorney can properly advise you. Even with that information, I wouldn’t be able to give you legal advice over the Internet.

      If you’re concerned, you should speak with a local attorney. To save a little money on legal fees, you might want to wait until a suit has actually been filed so you’re not paying for advice based on a hypothetical situation.

  27. I foolishly opened a car loan in June 2012 in my name for my ex. In oct 2012 he was arrested and the car was towed. I immediately called the car comp and told them the situation and where they could pick up the car. I had to go to the tow lot and sign paper giving auth for the car lot to take over the car. I heard nothing after that and assumed they had the car. I got a summons to court a few days ago for breach of contract. The tow lot would not release the car to my car.comp because it hadnt been registered. The car comp is requesting 19,000 from me for the balance of the loan. They also summoned the tow lot. Please help I need some advice on what steps I should take.

    • Thanks for reading, but I don’t give legal advice on this blog, I only give general information. For advice specific to your individual situation, you need to speak with a local attorney. Here’s a good place to start: http://www.nacba.org/

      With that in mind, your first step should be speaking with an attorney. He/she will be able to analyze your case and give you some options. If you simply ignore the summons, the lender will likely get a default judgment and try to collect on it. Good luck!

  28. I live in ny and am being sued for a car accident i was in im 18 and currently unemployed and have no money what are some options i have and the car was registered and insured by my uncle

    • The only advice I can give is to contact a local attorney. I don’t give legal advice over the Internet and I’m not licensed to practice law anywhere but Wisconsin.

      I can provide general information online, but not legal advice. Beware of ANYONE offering legal advice online without meeting you. A reputable lawyer will want to discuss your problem with you before offering any solutions.

  29. I’m getting sued for a $500 cash advance I got quite a few years back… I have no way to pay and have no income at this time… I was wondering if they will be allowed to go after my house or vehicles???

    • For legal advice specific to your personal situation, you need to contact a local attorney. I don’t give legal advice over the Internet.

      In some jurisdictions, a small claims judgment may be a lien against your property. If that’s the case where you live (and your attorney can tell you if it is), the lien would most likely be junior in priority to any existing liens and any exemptions your state law affords.

  30. I am unfortunately going through the unpleasant event of being sued by capital one, for 1900$. I have been in contact them since becoming unemployed over a year ago, and have tried several time to set up some kind of payment arrangements but these offers were unfortunately not accepted, so I could not pay. They of course they resorted to having collection agencies come after me, I have had this happen in the past but have never been sued especially for suck a small amount. I don’t have much but I don’t want my bank account closed or frozen, or my car which isn’t even running taken. I take care of my mother so I have no home or savings, but I am at a loss for what to do, all of the research I have done has led me to file an answer with the court and the Lawyers representing Capital one, however I know that this too will most likely result in a hearing and the judge will likely rule in Capital One’s favor since I can’t produce any evidence the debt was not mine and result in wage garnishment and them taking my vehicle and freezing my bank accouts.. Is there anything I can do? It seems like a lose lose situation, If I ignore it they get the judgment If I go to the hearing they still wit because I legitimately owe the debt. I had no choice but to live on dit during hard times while unemployed. Please any advice you have would be greatly appreciated. I have no idea how to fill out these papers, any advice where to get free help to do so would also be appreciated thank you.

    • Most states have free legal services available for those that qualify. Your state bar association might also have some information for you.

      A judgment creditor cannot execute on a debtor’s property if the property is exempt under applicable state law. I recommend you speak to a local attorney to find out what your state exemptions will allow you to protect and whether or not you are currently collection-proof.

  31. My home is going into foreclosure and I’ve stopped making payments for the HOA fees. I received via the mail to continue the case because I’ve not been served. They are stating that if I do not show up for the court date that they will issue a Civil Warrant Arrest. Is that possible?

    • In Wisconsin, you don’t have to attend a foreclosure hearing if you don’t plan to defend. If you fail to show up, the creditor will be granted a default judgment and will sell the place at a sheriff’s sale in 6-12 months. You can contact a local attorney by using the attorney finder at nacba.org to learn about the laws in your state.

  32. I recently got In a accident where I collided with 2 other cars. I was unaware I didnt have insurance due.to no cancellation letter we were fighting with the insurance company to begin with because they had 3 different accounts and different license for me. Besides the point there was no insurance and I hit them. The insurance company is sueing me for 10,000.

    I’m a student and have bills to pay I work full time but only make 17000 a year. I still live with my parents and the only thing I own is a 95 cutlass. Theres no way I can afford this. What wil happen to me? I just got my credit up to a 715 and have an open loan. I dont want to file bankruptcy.

    • If you don’t defend in the lawsuit, the insurance company will be awarded a default judgment in the case. After judgment has been entered, the insurance company will have whatever collection remedies your state allows at its disposal. These may include bank levies, wage garnishments, or executions against nonexempt assets.

  33. my ex common law husband beat me and my son up i had to run for my safty 3 years ago he took me to court for the laptop he bought me and ring he bought 2 years before that was directed to give the ring and laptop back and pay $5280.00 i was unable to be home for this court case as i was in the hospital in calgary i had surgery so my dad was there they didnt even wanna listen to the abeating myself and son had to go through im on assistance and this man is now following me around contacting via email and phoning saying i owe him all this money and that there gonna start taking it off my monthy check is this true and do i have any right he is making comments that he has naked pics of me and they are gonna put in on the internet of me

    • This sounds like stalking to me. Whether or not he has a valid claim upon which to sue is the least of the problems. I recommend you contact a local attorney immediately, preferably someone experienced in domestic violence issues. Your attorney may recommend you also contact local law enforcement.

  34. I have received a letter from the Gloucester County Sheriff’s office (in NJ) of a levy against my home and property for an unsecured $11,606 debt from 2006. I am married, but the debt is my name only.

    I was separated from my wife and lived in NC from 04 til 09. I returned from NC in Jan 09. I am unemployed, without income. I wish to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, however, I do not have the money for the fees. If I could afford these fees, I would be able to pay my debts. Can you advise me on this?

    In other words, how can I file for bankruptcy if I can’t afford a lawyer?

    • You are allowed to file bankruptcy without an attorney. But it’s not usually advised, because there are so many things that can go wrong when you don’t understand the system and rules.

      I recommend you speak with a local attorney. You can find someone at Nacba.org. Without speaking to someone, you can’t know how much an attorney would charge to help you. If you truly can’t afford to hire someone, you may be uncollectible and not need bankruptcy protection. A good consumer law attorney will tell you if bankruptcy isn’t the answer in your situation. Good luck!

  35. Hello. Last year I was hospitalized for appendicitis. My insurance company sent me a check that was made out to me, and, foolishly, I kept the check, not understanding the seriousness of such an act at the time. Since then, I have learned some things, and now I regret my action and want to make it right. I am currently paying off all but one of the bills. This one bill is the biggest one. I have contacted the office and spoken to them, and told them that i wish to start paying it off, but was told that because they are aware that my insurance sent me the check that would have covered most of the bill, they won’t accept payments. That was several months ago, and i hadn’t heard anything back from them, so i called them again yesterday to follow up. I spoke to the collections office and she said the same thing, and told me that she would have the collections manager call me and maybe we could work something out. They’re understandably angry that i kept the check, but i really want to pay them what I’m able to pay. I’m scared that they might try to take me to court despite my efforts to pay them. Could they press criminal charges? Could I go to jail? What are my chances of settling this out of court? Please help, I’m very concerned.

    • The hospital likely had a lien on the insurance proceeds. While many insurance companies will make the check out to both the medical provider and the patient (preventing problems like this), not all do.

      As long as you’re willing to repay the debt, I don’t see a D.A. pursuing this criminally. The hospital may sue, but there’s no benefit to doing so when you’re willing to pay. If the hospital isn’t willing to work with you, contact a local attorney. He or she can deal with the hospital collections office and probably work out an acceptable payment plan.

  36. I am fixing to be served papers by a attorney for non payment on credit card in the amount of $3,000 what will I have to do ? We I have to go to court ? I have offered to settle with them for $1500 and they said no they said I could set up payment of 775.00 a month for 6 monts but I afford that ! That is more them my house payment ! What will happen in court or what can I do ? I am in South Carolina

    • That’s a state-specific question. For advice specific to your individual situation, you need to speak with a local attorney.

      As a general matter, if you ignore a small claims summons and complaint, the creditor will get a default judgment and then begin collecting on that judgment. If you are employed, this may include wage garnishments up to the limit imposed by your state law. Check out NACBA.org to find a consumer bankruptcy attorney in your area.

  37. I found out thru a friend that I’m being sued in small claims court. I’ve never been served. Can they get a default judgement against me?

    • Maybe. Some jurisdictions allow service by publication (basically, a notice in your local newspaper) if personal service is impractical or if personal service has been attempted and failed. Before filing the motion for default judgment, the plaintiff will usually file an affidavit of service, showing how the defendant was served.

      Now that you know about the suit, I recommend you contact a local attorney who can tell you if service was proper and whether you have any other viable defenses.

  38. Presently, i am going to criminal court. My former employee is saying i stole 17,000 from them. They have also filed a lawsuit. On the lawsuit, can a judgement be given if i am not found guilty in criminal court.

    • Yes. The civil trial and criminal trial are two different proceedings with two different standards of proof. For example, OJ Simpson was found not guilty in his criminal trial, but was found liable in his wrongful death civil trial.

  39. I was recently informed that I am being sued for $5,000 that I had received as a bonus from work. I ended up quiting and had paid back the bonus I received. However, I am still being sued. I have proof from my bank statements that I had paid it and I have considered hiring a lawyer but I do not know if it is the right decision. Also, would I be able to counter sue if they persist?

    • If you’re unsure, speaking with a local attorney is probably your best bet. He/she can tell you if this suit has any merit and if the facts suggest you may have a counterclaim.

  40. i wrote and recieved good advice from bret and i sure thank him. i paid in two payments a computor in 1999 then had a judgement and levy on my bank account from a summons i never recieved. bret said to get a good attorney which i did and the attorney put a quash on the summons and i won because the attorney did a paper trail and found i was in fact innocent and the judge granted the motion and guess what the other side did not show up at all. i paid over $20,000.00 for a $450.00 computor that was paid off in 1999 the judge said unbelieveable that this was done to someone. always get legal advice i thought i couldnt afford to you can’t afford not to i get all my money back from my bank account and all over payment $20,000.00 and i have my good name back means alot

    • I’m glad things worked out for you!

  41. I was served with a judgement im being sued for $1500. I contacted the attorneys office to see if I could set up some kind of payments. He offered for me to pay $75 bi-weekly, I ask him if I could pay a little less he refused. I dont know what to do, he says that I will save more money by paying him then following through to court and letting them garnish my wages

    • Assuming this is a legitimate debt, you would probably save money by voluntarily paying the creditor. If the creditor incurs legal fees and filing fees, those will be added to the amount of your debt. And if the creditor has to garnish your wages, your employer might charge a nominal fee for processing the garnishment.

      The only advice I can give is to speak with a local attorney. You might be collection-proof, you might have state law remedies available to you, or maybe a bankruptcy filing makes sense in your situation. Only a lawyer who has looked at your full financial picture can give legal advice and recommend the best solution.

  42. my husband currently has a suspended license for failure to carry minimum car insurance. It just so happens he was involved in a car accident and owes $12,000. It has been a few years since the case has been closed. What are our options? We would like to settle this but dont know who to contact. We are currently financially ready to take care of this case but dont know who to contact. any advice would be helpful.

    • You should speak with a local attorney. He or she can tell you if the debt could be discharged in a bankruptcy, if it makes more sense to settle with the other party, or what steps your husband needs to take to get his license back. If you have little other debt and are able to pay the judgment amount, your attorney will be able to help you resolve the matter as efficiently as possible.

  43. I’m not sure what to do. The BK attorney I have , who is pro bono, just keeps asking me what I want to do. I really don’t want to claim BK, I need to buy a car and will buy one before BK is filed. What do you think about that? I owe about 35K in cc. Being summoned by 4 creditors. I have been unemployed off and on for 7 years. Constantly am under employed and now make $380.00/week. I’m holding off claiming BK because I want to pay these creditors and not have this on my record. I’m 60 yrs old. The Bk will also be an extra burden in getting any kind of a decent job, in addition to higher insurance rates. Everything is very stressful. Some of the creditors want to settle by 60%..right now I don’t have the money. I have just started a job that pays only $380.00. If I owe 35K…how much do I need to make to be able to pay the creditors over time and be able to save? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    • You need to ask your attorney these questions. He or she will be able to tell you if you are collection-proof or if settling your debts makes more sense than filing bankruptcy in your situation.

      Don’t rely on legal advice given online; no reputable attorney will give advice without meeting with you and analyzing your individual circumstances. If you are unhappy with your attorney, you can hire someone else. I recommend contacting a NACBA member if you are considering this.

  44. Hello

    So I guess my mom was going into business with this lady. And tw woman gave my mom $10,000. It all happened last year. I think my mom gave the lady two checks, $5,000 on each check. But they bounced. So now the lady wants her money back. But my mom said there was no contracts signed. So does she have to pay the woman back?? The lady and her husband came to our house two times. They were banging on the door and ringing the doorbell. And now the sheriff has come by 2 times with what I’m assuming is a court summons. I don’t know if I should open the door or not..

    • Dodging the sheriff won’t keep your mother from getting sued. If she is sued, she can either defend or consent to a default judgment. A local attorney can tell if she has any valid defenses, but he/she will need to see the allegations in the complaint.

  45. Ok, so here is the dilemma… I helped with the purchase of a vehicle by taking out a car loan and the vehicle is still in my name. The girl wanted me to buy it for her because she did not have a drivers license at the time. I kept the title of the car until she got her license, however i did not put anything on paper or sign documents stating our agreement, i have also been taking care of the insurance payments. Later the parent of the girl contacts me saying that they want their daughter to have the title, but they also wanted me to pay the full amount of car loan plus the interest. The parents were paying the daughter to pay me to cover the loan payments. However, the parents were unaware that i was even involved… This plus the daughter got in a car accident while the boyfriend was driving without my knowledge. Then the daughter had withheld information from the parents causing the end result of the parents wanting to sue me for the car loan amounts plus the interest that had accured. Invalidating any verbal agreements between the daughter and me. I am torn between hiring legal help and conceding to pay the amounts that were requested. This situation haunts me for trying to do a good thing.

    • If the parents decide to sue you, you’ll have to decide if you want to defend or consent to a judgment. Your attorney will be able to tell you if you have a valid defense. I don’t give legal advice online, so I can’t render an opinion on your specific case.

  46. My ex parent’s in law are trying to sue me for being on my car loan. A couple of months before I was divorced my mother in law cosigned on a vehicle with me. When I signed the divorce papers, I signed my house over to my ex husband and he signed that the car will be in my name so long as I get all the debt out of the Respondent’s (my husbands) name. THIS DEBT WAS NEVER IN HIS NAME IN THE FIRST PLACE, he didn’t have a license at the time so we didn’t even add him to the loan or title.

    8 months after the divorce his mother decided that she wanted her name taken off the loan and title immediately or she was going to take legal action and said I was in contempt with the court. She is using the above statement “Petitioner should do everything in their power to remove said debts (the car) from respondents name.” as leverage to sue me.

    I called the loan company in the past and they wouldn’t refinance the car for the full amount leaving me to pay way more than I can afford out of pocket. So I haven’t done anything to remove her name. However, I haven’t done anything to cause her trouble either. I have been making the payments on time and never defaulted on a month.

    Is it possible that she will be able to sue? Or will the court essentially tell her “too bad?”

    THANKS!

    • You’ll need to talk to your divorce attorney about this. But as a general matter, it doesn’t sound like much of a case.

      Your divorce agreement is not binding on a third party, like the car lender. You can’t force the lender to remove MIL from the note. If you don’t pay, she’ll be liable because she signed the note. And because she wasn’t a party to that contract, I don’t see what grounds MIL would have to sue.

      Of course, this is only general information and NOT legal advice. The law in your state may be different. For advice specific to your individual situation, you need to speak with a local attorney.

  47. My ex boyfriend left voluntarily over four months ago. He had left numerous personal items behind because he had no where to store the items and couldn’t afford to place them in storage. He owes me money and states he can’t afford to pay me, but he has money to drink, I’ve seen him in bars drinking on Friday nights. Can I sell some of his things to recoup the money he owes me.

    • Maybe. It all depends on what your state law says.

      If your state law allows it, you may be allowed to sell his assets and claim the proceeds as a setoff against the debt you are owed. It’s also possible that your only remedy lies in court and you will need to sue and get a court order before doing anything to his property.

      I don’t give legal advice online. You need to speak with a local attorney for legal advice specific to your situation. He or she will be able to tell you if you have any legal or equitable interest in the property that was left behind. Maybe it’s considered abandoned, maybe you are required to keep it safe for him. This is a very fact-specific and state-specific question.

  48. I was left a house when my parents died. I let my brother put the house in his name because I’m about to file bankruptcy. It has to come out of my brother’s name he has legal and financial problems. Can I put the house in my name under my business name? Then will it be safe since it is completely paid for and the bankruptcy court wont be able to touch it. Or should I put it in a trust. Please Help!

    • You need to speak with your bankruptcy attorney about this BEFORE making any more transfers. Transferring assets before filing bankruptcy can put them at risk. State law will determine how far back the trustee can go to undo any fraudulent transfers and bring assets into the bankruptcy estate. If your attorney doesn’t know about this house, there is no way he/she can protect it for you. It’s much easier to prevent a problem than to fix one.

  49. hi ,i’m out of country now and i got an email from cash company that i used to get loan a years back . so i don’t know how handle this, please help. This is the email i got :

    My name xxxxxxxx From Cash USA. Reason of this email is that we have registered a case against you.

    Following is your information.

    Name: xxxxxx

    Social Security Number#########
    Outstanding Debt: $686.00(including late payment charges)

    Penalty in the court: $8526.35

    Attorney and court fees: $1500+

    Creditors- Cash USA which is a parent company of more then 400 cash websites and internet web portals
    in USA and operates under different names in different states.

    Apart from getting laid off by your current employer after we send them the legal notice you will be blacklisted from getting any job.
    ………..
    Please let us know what is your intention by today itself so we can hold the case or else we will meet you in court house.

    • This sounds a lot like the scam I wrote about HERE.

      I’d delete the email and forget about it. But if you’re concerned, you should speak to a local attorney once you get back in the U.S. He/she can give you legal advice specific to your individual situation.

  50. I get a letter today from some law office informing me of some legal case that was filed against me .Of course they offered to represent me.Now the suit was filed in a county i have never even been in for at least a year do thise cases need to be filed in the county that what had happened in?I have no idea what this is about.Any Help you can give will e appreciated.

    • Some attorneys subscribe to a service that lets them know whenever someone is sued. The lawyer can then send out an offer to represent the defendant, which sometimes arrives before the defendant even knows he’s been sued! The proper venue for the lawsuit will depend on your state’s civil procedure statutes.

      It’s a personal decision, but I recommend you contact a local attorney that you trust rather than respond to unsolicited mail. If you don’t know anyone, ask for recommendations from friends or family members.

  51. My mother in law is being sued by her family members for embezzlement of over $200.000 , she never showed up to any court dates and finally got papers claiming when the garnishments were going to start. The sheriff came to her home and took her vehicle. We have not talked to her in a long time last we heard she quit her job & we think she took off to another state somewhere. What do you think happens in this type of situation? Can she be arrested if ever found even though this was considered at the time a civil judgement?

    • It depends on your state law. If she disobeys a court order, she could be cited for contempt and brought in. But simply not paying a judgment debt isn’t grounds for arrest in most jurisdictions.

  52. I am an artist who works in polymer clay, I’ve had a letter written to me by a designer of 2d work saying I’ve infringed on her copyrights by making art that is derivitive of her 2d designs. I’m not being sued but asked a number of things like to take down my art, release my customer info, and pay a fee of $750 to pay for damages and atty fees. I have a week to comply or offer is off the table and I will be sued. I am low income making less than $1,000 a month. I don’t know if i should comply with this letter in some of the terms but I am unable at this holiday season having 3 small children to pay this fee. All other terms can be complied with. I’m on the fence of should I agree to the guilt of possibly deriving this work or just ignoring this letter and see if they sue me. They are threatening me with the numbers of $150,000 which I could never pay. I have no idea what to do.

    • You should speak to someone local who is experienced in Intellectual Property law. If you don’t know of anyone, your state bar association should be able to point you in the right direction.

  53. I was sued in Small Claims a couple of years ago in Wisconsin and was un-garnishable because I live below the poverty line. What happens if I am always unable to pay the amount? Will the claim be on my credit and in judgement forever?

    • No. Judgments in Wisconsin are good for 10 years. After that, the creditor may renew the judgment. However, if you get a higher-paying job and become collectible before the judgment expires, the creditor may try to collect at that time.

  54. Can Small Loan lenders come to your job and serve lawsuit papers?

    • Depending on where you live, the creditor may be required to serve you personally with the summons and complaint. Process servers typically attempt service at your home. If the process server cannot find you there, he/she may look for you elsewhere. Because it’s easier and cheaper, most creditors will serve by mail or publication if they cannot serve you at home.

  55. I have found through ccap that I am being sued for medical bills. How long after the complaint and summons is filed until they generally deliver the summons? If I am not at home will they deliver to anyone at the house? Also, is there any way to tell the way it will be delivered by my ccap information?
    Thank you

    • In Wisconsin, once the summons and complaint have been filed, the creditor is responsible for having them served on the debtor. Depending on who is hired for the service (many use the local sheriff’s department), actual service might be a week or two after filing. Once the creditor receives confirmation that the debtor has been served, the creditor will file an affidavit that service has been made and a hearing will be set by the court.

      Here are the rules for service of process in Wisconsin.

      CCAP won’t tell you how the creditor will attempt service. It will usually be by sheriff, but some creditors may use private process servers. one counties allow service by first class mail in certain circumstances.

      If you can’t afford the judgment, you should speak with a local attorney about your debt-relief options.

  56. Hello, thanks for posting such helpful information. My issue is similar to one above. I was served by an officer a summons from a private student loan collector. I owe thousands but there is no way I can pay. I am currently unemployed and have been for almost 3 years. I have no assets, make less than 200 per week from unemployment. I have no bank account, my credit has already been entirely ruined and I filed bankruptcy for medical and credit debt 3 years ago. I thought if I didn’t appear in court id be arrested but I’ve realized that isn’t true through many sources. I read that sometimes you advise not to respond or appear. In my case, I do owe the debt but I am definitely not collectable. Is there even a point in appearing in court if I have no defense, no wages no garnish, etc. Also, if I decide not to appear, what happens next and does it affect the lawsuit in any way or affect me negatively for ignoring the summons? I just don’t see what the point of appearing is. I’m completely broke, I live in Chicago and my car is unreliable as it is and we are experiencing a winter storm so It would be a huge hassle to appear, cost for parking, etc. In your opinion and I understand you cannot give direct legal advise, but from what I’ve told you would it be ok to not appear/respond if they wont be able to collect anyway? Thanks again for giving your time to help, much appreciated and respected.

    • I’m not licensed to practice in Illinois, so I can’t speak to the laws in your state. In general, if you don’t show up, the creditor will get a default judgment. Depending on the facts of your specific situation, you may have a defense. For example, is the plaintiff the original creditor or a debt buyer? If it’s a debt buyer, can the plaintiff prove that you owe the money? Your local attorney can help you decide if you have a viable defense or not.

      Student loans are tough. They’re rarely dischargeable in bankruptcy, but you can sometimes work with the creditors to work out reasonable payment plans. If you contact a local bankruptcy attorney, ask if they work with student loans. If not, ask who they would recommend. This is a growing problem and more attorneys are learning about the options available to borrowers.

  57. Back in may of 2013, I was driving my jeep and my tire fell off. The other driver hit it and it broke her headlight. We exchanged numbers and the next day she called saying I have to pay her $500 deductable or she’ll sue me. I talked to her insurance and they said she shouldn’t be contacting me. Cut to January, I’m being sued by her insurance company for 2,000 (thats including the deductable). She changed her story now and I have no way to prove it because I didn’t take pictures. I am unemployeed trying to get on disability and live with my father. I have no property for them to take and no money at all other than 100 in the bank. What should I do and what will happen?

    • I don’t give legal advice online, only general information. For legal advice specific to your individual situation, you need to speak with a local attorney.

      It’s possible you’re collection-proof, meaning that the other driver can get a judgment against you but won’t be able to garnish wages or levy against your property. Your attorney can tell you the proper course of action to take. Good luck.

  58. I know a debtor can put a lien on bank accounts in Texas. Are they able to freeze/garnish money I have on credit cards? In other words, if I have $500 available on my credit card, could they take that $500 making me owe it on that card?

    • Unless you’re talking about a prepaid credit card, you don’t have $500 available for creditors to take. For example, Chase can’t make an unauthorized charge to your Capital One credit card to pay your Chase debt.

      If it’s a prepaid card and the bank is actually holding your money, Texas law might allow creditors to levy against those funds. As I’m only licensed to practice in Wisconsin, I can’t give legal advice on Texas law. For advice specific to your situation, speak to a local attorney. You can find a NACBA member at NACBA.org.

  59. I am being sued for 4000 from 2009. I have no income. Live in housing. Live on food stamps. I can’t afford an attorney. It’s being held in Wisconsin and I have lived in Illinois for 5 years. Please help

    • If you can’t afford to hire an attorney to represent you, you may be able to get help at your local legal aid clinic. In Wisconsin, you can contact Legal Action or Judicare. I assume Illinois has similar programs.

  60. I recently had a creepy guy come to my door with a judgement stating that I need to appear in court. It is from a credit card that I owe money on (Walmart), it is for about $1100. I am on SSD and after I receive my monthly payment and pay bills, get prescriptions, etc I have no money. Can my check be garnished? Can my bank account be frozen?

    • Social Security benefits are exempt from collection activities. If you have commingled funds in your bank account (some SSD, some employment income, some gifts, some rental income, etc.) your state law might allow creditors to go after those funds. Speak to a local attorney to find out if your bank account is at risk.

  61. Hi,
    I live in Los Angeles California and I have won a judgment against someone who owes me money in the amount of $3,000. I have successfully been able to obtain a lien on his rental property, as well as a lien on the security deposit for the property that he rents. Additionally I have been able to successfully garnish the rent from his tenant for his rental property (Which is currently being held by the sheriff’s department).

    My question is, is there a chance that he might be able to oppose the rent collection that I collected based on financial hardship? Also, He has ignored an order for financial disclosure, Does that put him in contempt? I also know that he is on probation for a drunk driving conviction, do you suppose that this violates his probation?

    Thank You, any information would be helpful.

    • Sorry, I don’t give legal advice on this blog, only general information. Even if I did give advice, I can’t comment on California law, as I’m only licensed to practice in Wisconsin.

      For legal advice specific to your individual situation, you need to speak to a local attorney. I recommend you search for someone who handles debt collection.

  62. I have two payday loans I simply can’t repay. How likely are they to sue me? I’m on SSI.

    • You need to speak with a local attorney for advice specific to your situation. In general, some creditors will sue even if the debtor is collection-proof, while others won’t waste the time or money.

  63. My dog was attacked and almost killed, by the neighbors dog, a year and a half ago, July 2012. We, the neighbor and I, took my dog to the vet. The vet took my neighbors debit card (actually ebt (welfare card)) info, so they could debit it monthly, to pay for the bill. My neighbor always took the money out before the vet could. So, the vet went after me for the money; which I didn’t feel I should pay, so didn’t. It went to collections.

    Today, someone came to the house, while I was at work, and talked to my son. He handed my son a court summons and was taking pictures of my vehicles. I have a ’68 camaro and a ’73 camaro. He asked if they were for sale. My son was clueless and didn’t know he was handed a court summons. My son thought the guy was really interested in my cars, so my son gave him my cell phone number. FYI, my cars are not for sale and never will be. The guy wishes!

    I just wanted to know if this is legal? I don’t like this guy coming on my property and taking pictures of my stuff, besides the fact I’m being sued. Also, the attorney on the summons, Jeffrey G. Yonek, who is located in Olympia, WA, listed his address as being the same as the collection agency’s, Credit International Corporation, which is in Bothell, WA. I googled them both and they have bad reviews. Just saying.

    Any info you could give would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • The only legal advice I can give is to speak to a local attorney. Service of a summons and complaint is a state-law issue. Depending on what your state law requires, serving your son may be allowed. My guess is that the person taking photos was looking to see if you have any non-exempt property that could be used to pay a potential judgment. Your attorney can tell you what exemptions are available in your state. Good luck!

  64. I’m trying to sell my house and I just recently found out that I have a judgment against me in Oneida county, NY back in 2008. I was not aware of it nor was I summoned with any paperwork. I contacted the attorney that filed the judgment, but they’re no longer handling the case and they had turned it back over to a collection agency,  now the collection agency wants double the amount of the original $3000. What should I do at this point? If I knew about it I would’ve dealt with it back then. Do I just agree to their terms and pay it off, they will not settle for anything less….

    I left the state of Utica NY in 2006 and moved to Texas, right now I’m in the state of South Carolina. 

    • Interesting set of facts. Judgment entered in NY while you lived in TX is now causing problems for a real estate transaction in SC. Since I’m not licensed to practice in any of those states, I can’t give you legal advice. If the house is located in NY, I’d contact a NY attorney to help negotiate with the judgment creditor. If the house is in SC, a SC attorney should be able to help. My guess is that the creditor will accept some lesser amount to satisfy the judgment and allow the sale to close.

      Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  65. Hello, I had a judgment rendered against me in 2010. I made all payments to the law office that won the judgment and the judgment is paid in full. I have just received a letter from another law office saying I owe $3000 in interest and that my account had been with them since 2012. I made all payments to the same place for 4 years and they cashed all of my checks and I have a payment ledger showing I am paid in full and overpaid $12. How can another company say I owe them interest of $3000 when I made all my payments to the judgment law office? Will I have to pay this?

    • It’s possible the original creditor sold the debt or hired two different collection firms. The different firms probably don’t know that the other is working on the file. You should contact a local attorney who represents debtors (NACBA.org is a good place to start) to help you resolve this.

  66. I have been on Social Security Disability for the last ten years as my sole source of income. In 2013, I was sued by my former landlord for past due rent, and they got a default judgment against me. My disability benefits were exempt from seizure though, I had no other assets, and so they couldn’t collect.

    Within the last year however, I have started a home-based tutoring business as part of Social Security’s “Working While Disabled Program” that allows me to make income while still getting benefits. This additional income is not protected from being levied, as far as I can tell.

    My question is, can I make my tutoring business an LLC, to separate those assets from my personal liability? Does the fact that I would be creating an LLC after I already have a judgment against me, put me in contempt?

    I know a judgement creditor can then get a “charging order’ against an LLC, but I read that because they don’t have the power to distribute the funds, the money basically remains safe once it’s an LLC — and I am in California.

    I just don’t want to be in contempt by creating an LLC for my business, since I already have he judgement, and that is my concern.

    • That’s a California-specific question. As I’m not licensed to practice law in California, my opinion would be meaningless.

      I recommend you speak to a local debtors’ attorney. He/she can tell you if shielding assets via an LLC is allowed in California. The issue may not be forming the LLC, but how you get paid. If the LLC pays you wages, the judgment creditor *may* be able to garnish the wages. NACBA.org is a good place to start your search for a good debtors’ attorney. Good luck!

  67. I filed for bankruptcy with an attorney but I did not pay the full amount for his services prior to filing. He has sent me a summons for services but he did not put in the summons that it was for a bankruptcy. Can a attorney sue me for funds owed prior to filing bankruptcy. Should I reply to the summon, informing him that base on MN law he can not sue me for services that was render before the bankruptcy was filed. Also wouldn’t a summons have a court file number?? and show up in the district court files?

    • That’s a thorny issue. In most cases, any fees due under a pre-filing contract are discharged along with all the other unsecured debts. Some attorneys will have you sign a post-filing contract to cover any extra legal services not included in the pre-filing contract. If attorneys in MN are allowed to do that, and you signed a post-filing contract, that debt was not discharged in your bankruptcy and you are still liable for it.

      Demanding payment on a discharged debt is a violation of the discharge injunction. If you never signed a post-filing contract, this debt was discharged, and the former attorney should know better than to try and collect on it. You might want to contact another bankruptcy attorney (check out NACBA.org for someone in your area) to learn about your options.

      • thanks a lot this was very helpful!!!

        • Thanks for reading. Good luck!

  68. A few years back I was taken to small claims court and sued for broken lease charges. I settled with the company and signed a paper and now it appears as a public record. How can I get that information,? The second part of my question is that I was making the agreed monthly payments and then the company filed bankruptcy and closed. I continued to send a couple of payments to the Po box listed but stopped once I stopped receiving receipts. This has been a few years now. The landlords numbers are all disconnected and I have no way of contacting him. My fear is that he will put a bank levy on my bank account. Also can he take me to small claims court again and try to sue me? Can I call the court and get info on the public record. What exactly shows up on the public record? “thanks in advabce

    • These are all state law specific questions. The answers will be different depending on where you live. A local attorney can give you advice and answers to those questions. NACBA.org is a great place to start your search.

  69. I am getting sued by an insurance company. They have pictures of my car parked up against an Aston Martin in a parking garage. I didn’t have insurance but I don’t think I hit their car, however the pictures look like my car is the one at fault.

    Is there a way to prove I didn’t hit the car? This happened 2 years ago. I think my friend may have been driving my truck that night, however he said he didn’t hit a car.

    I don’t have any money, or a job, however I do own a few boats. Can they take my boats if they win and I can’t pay? This is in California.

    • This is a question for a California attorney. In general, if the insurance company gets a judgment, it can try to collect on the judgment by any means allowed by state law. This might include wage garnishments or executions against personal property like boats. It all depends on what California law allows and what exemptions are available to you.

      If you don’t defend the law suit, the insurance company will likely get a default judgment. If you want to defend, you should contact a local attorney as soon as possible. NACBA.org is a good place to start your search.

  70. Hello I have a question I was being sued by a cash store I settled with their attorney and set up payment plan I made my first payment in march I missed my one for April can they throw my in jail it not that I don’t want to pay money just tight as were living off my husband income and I’m waiting to be released back to work after having a baby and surgery what’s the worse they can do jail take it from my taxes the case is closed can they reopen it

    • If you default, the creditor can either have judgment entered against you or commence a new law suit. It all depends on what your settlement agreement said. But jail is for criminal cases, not civil. If you want to resolve the matter, you should speak to a local attorney. He/she can help you decide if your best move is to settle, defend, file bankruptcy, or do nothing.

  71. Hello I have a quick question, so I’m being sued for withholding payment for a new years party I attended with my family. I asked my credit card company to not pay them because of the experience we had and since the credit card company won and did not pay, they are now suing me in small claims court. In short, there was several issues with the event, and their advertisement for the event was inaccurate and the event host made a defamatory statement about my father in front of 1000 other individuals, in the suit they claim we attended and enjoyed the celebration but on the contrary we did not and we did not touch anything on the table that was provided by them (meals). I guess my question is what law governs in this case so I could do some research and see if I can find an applicable case.

    • It would probably be the law of the state in which the events took place.

  72. I have been out of work for 8 months now. I have been daily searching for work and still no luck. A week ago I was served with citation papers from a marshall at home for a credit card balance with Capital one I owe. I have told them I lost my job and have been been able to make payments. They still went forth with this suit. I cannot afford bankruptcy to file and I really just do not know what to do. The balance is for 2,524,00. I have tried to call them to pay possibly 10 dollars a month but they want more and that wont stop judgement. I still have no filed an answer to the citation. What should I do now?

    • I would contact a local bankruptcy attorney. Depending on your household income, you may be collection proof.

      • I am collection proof I would say… I do not own nothing. Nothing is in my name. I have no income what so ever and no assets period. My parents are going to help me pay for bankruptcy. I just received a letter for the company trying to sue me. They want me sign the paper they sent so that I do not have to appear in court. I never did fill out an answer at the court house. With filing bankrupt should I still fill out the paper so I do not have to appear in court?

        • That’s a question for your attorney. If you need help finding one locally, here’s a good place to start: NACBA.org

          Good luck!

  73. Hi my mother was just recently taken to court for a medical judgement that she thought was cleared with the community care program. She later was told the bill was not included and this was for another bill.She was not able to make the court date because no one was able to cover her shift. She cannot afford the amount they are asking her pay. Is she able to make another court date? or can the collection agency lower the monthly payment…after all she received community care assistance because she couldn’t afford to pay the medical debt. She does not have a problem making the payment she just needs a payment she can afford.

    • You need to speak with a local attorney. The creditor likely got a default judgment and is free to collect in any way state law allows. Whether the collection agency has authority to accept a lower payment depends on whether it bought the debt or is merely acting as an agent for the original creditor. Anything is negotiable; you just need to find the person with authority to negotiate. Good luck!

  74. What if I am collection proof? what is the worse to happen on a filed judgement against me and I have no job and no assets what so ever?

    • If you are collection proof, the creditor can get a judgment against you but can’t take anything from you. State law varies, so you should see a local attorney to see what assets you can protect under your state’s exemption laws.

  75. Hi my boyfriend was sued for a car accident he was in Virginia in dec of 2012 for 15,000. He was charged with a misdemeanor first in criminal court and had to go to jail for 30 days(15 suspended). then he was taken to civil court a year later and was sued. he has not made a single payment and due to the “injuries” that the person he hit received (it was a rental car he hit btw) the collections agency suspended his license. My biggest concern & question is will this ever go away if he doesn’t pay ? I saw somewhere on the internet that sometimes after a certain period of time if you don’t pay it expires or something. Im sure every situation is different and would like to know your input if possible…thanks :)

    • It depends. Every state has its own collection statute of limitations. If he has a judgment against him, the judgment may (depending on state law) be renewed if the plaintiff believes he/she can collect.

      I would talk to a local lawyer. Depending on whether restitution was ordered or if your boyfriend was OWI, bankruptcy might help.

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