A court summons from your credit card company can be terrifying. Nobody wants to get sued. You may envision yourself sitting in a courtroom while attorneys for the credit card company claim to the jury that you have failed to pay your bills.
In reality, few credit card debt disputes wind up going to trial. It may help to think of the summons as another step toward resolving your credit card debt problem, possibly through a negotiated settlement with the company or a bankruptcy filing. But it is not something you can just ignore either.
Here are a few things you can do if you just learned your credit card company is suing you.
- Make sure it’s your debt. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), once a credit card company sues you for nonpayment of a debt, they have five days to send you a validation letter with details about that debt. If you suspect this debt is not your responsibility, you have the right to send the company a letter asking for more details. For example, you can request that the company prove that the statute of limitations has not tolled on the debt or have them identify the original creditor. Sometimes, credit card companies make mistakes.
- Try to negotiate a fair settlement. Here’s a little secret: the credit card company probably is no more eager to go to court than you are. Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming, and there is always the chance the company would lose and get none of your money. Thus, these companies can be receptive to settling out of court. This leads to our third tip…
- Contact a lawyer. An attorney who practices debt relief and bankruptcy can be a huge help. They know what your rights are as a debtor and how to protect those rights. And your lawyer can negotiate on your behalf if a settlement is your best option. If not, they can guide you through the bankruptcy process.
The most important thing you can do is take action regarding an alleged unpaid debt. Being proactive gives you the best chance of a relatively fast and inexpensive solution.