What Happens if You Get Sued by a Creditor?

Lawsuit Complaint

Being Served with a Lawsuit by the Sheriff

Here in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh), anywhere between 100 and 150 credit card lawsuits are filed each week. So, what usually happens and what’s your best response? Well, a sheriff’s deputy will be required to come to your house to deliver the actual lawsuit paperwork to you personally. This can be unnerving to see someone in uniform appear at your home, but it’s a requirement of Pennsylvania law. If you refuse service by not opening your door, then the creditor can eventually get court approval to advertise the lawsuit filing in a newspaper, which might wind up being much more unnerving.

Your Written Response Deadline

In any event, you will have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit. A “response” is your official reply in writing, which must be filed with the County Department of Court Records. If you fail to respond within 20 days, then the creditor must send you a 10-day letter, which warns you that you have 10 days before they request the Court to enter a judgment against you. Please bear in mind that many, many people have been confused by this process. When the deputy delivers the original paperwork, there is a court hearing date written onto the paperwork. This court hearing will only take place if you file a response. If you fail to file a response, then there will be no hearing!!

Default Judgments

If you fail to respond, or if you lose at your hearing, then a judgment will be entered. So, this affects your credit, because the lawsuit filing will be reported as a “public record” on your credit report. Moreover, once the judgment is final, then the creditor can garnish your bank accounts. Under Pennsylvania, only a small list of creditors are permitted to garnish wages (this list is limited to child support, wage or IRS taxes, defaulted student loans and former landlords who have judgments). But bank accounts are fair game for any judgment creditor. Therefore, watch out and be careful for any judgments.

Additionally, final judgments are automatic liens on real estate. They will accrue 6 per cent interest once they are entered, therefore, they can grow considerably if left unattended.

Bankruptcy Can Eliminate Judgment Liens as Well

At any point in this process however, you can still file a bankruptcy case to stop the collections process, even if the judgment has been entered. And given the lien avoidance process under the Bankruptcy Code, you can eliminate judgment liens legally before your bankruptcy case is over.

If you have questions about this or other debt issues, please contact my office for a free consultation, and please also leave comments or questions below.

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