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"I'm being sued by a creditor: what should I do?"

Debts, creditors and collection agencies have one thing in common: ignoring them is not a sound strategy to make them go away. A frustrated creditor may turn to a collection agency; and a frustrated collection agency may turn to litigation in an attempt to make you pay a debt. Sometimes you may receive a warning that a lawsuit is imminent, or sometimes your first inkling of it may be when you are served with a summons and complaint. Regardless of how you discover that you are being sued over a debt, there are some things that you need to take into account in order to deal with it properly.

First, just as ignoring the debt or the creditor does not make them go away, ignoring a summons and complaint will not make the lawsuit go away. Under Ohio law you will have 28 days after receiving the summons and complaint to file a legal answer with the court. If you fail to do so, then the creditor or collection agency that filed a lawsuit against you can make a motion to the court for a default judgment, which would if unchallenged result in the plaintiff getting everything it wants. Once it has a judgment in hand, a creditor or collection agency can then take action to collect the debt through legal means such as garnishment of your wages or bank account.

Assuming that you choose to answer the summons and complaint, you should also be aware that drafting such an answer can require a degree of legal expertise that most non-lawyers do not possess. A poorly crafted answer can be almost as ineffective as no answer at all, and can put you at a decided disadvantage if the matter goes to trial.

There are a number of potential defenses to a debt collection lawsuit, such as the passage of the relevant Ohio statute of limitations, or if the plaintiff has made a mistake and you do not actually owe the debt (for example, it has already been paid, or you are the victim of identity theft). Investigating and employing these defenses if they are available to you is also a matter that with which an experienced bankruptcy and consumer protection law firm can provide you with valuable assistance.

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