By: Melissa Rae Lanier, Attorney at Law
The following is provided for informational purposes only and is not, nor should it be construed as, legal advice.
After practicing bankruptcy law for many years, it always amazes me the number of people who fail to take action when served with a lawsuit. Being sued is a very serious matter, and there are specific steps and deadlines one must adhere to in order to protect one’s self.
Most of the lawsuits I have seen in my practice involve debt collection/breach of contract for unpaid credit cards and loans. Regardless of whether the plaintiff filing the lawsuit is the original creditor or a debt collection agency, the same rules apply.
Once you are served the petition in a lawsuit, the clock starts ticking and an answer/response must be filed. Being served typically means someone has physically put documents in your hand. However, there are exceptions where the court may grant other means of service. The court you are sued in will determine the deadline for filing your answer.
Do not ignore any deadlines! If you do not file a timely answer, the plaintiff can petition the court for a default judgment against you. The judgment will more than likely include the monetary amount you were sued for in addition to attorney’s fees and interest that will accrue until the judgement is paid.
In Texas, a judgment is good for ten years and may be renewed to extend it longer. Judgments can wreak havoc on your personal life or business. Judgements allow creditors to cloud the title to your homestead, foreclose on certain real property, offset your bank accounts and much more.
If you are served with a lawsuit, seek legal advice immediately.