You have received a statement of claim for a debt. Unpleasant, but not to worry about yet. Knowing your rights, the procedures and how you should handle the situation in different settings is key to taking the right decision.
The first thing to do, as soon as you receive the statement of claim, is to call your trusted lawyer and arrange a meeting. She can give you more options than you can think of because mortgage, credit card and loan debts can be handled quite differently than consumer debts.
What are your rights and procedures?
You should know that you have 28 days from the day that you have been served the statement of claim of debt to respond. If you don’t respond a default judgment against you might be issued and you will be obliged by a court order to pay the debt.
This is not an outcome you want, especially if you think you don’t owe the money or you want to arrange a settlement or payment in installments. In these 28 days, you can do one of the following things:
1. You can file a Defence in court
If you don’t agree that you owe the money or part of the money, you file a Defence at the court where the statement of claim was issued. The Defence form is available online or at your local courthouse. After you file the Defence, you and the plaintiff (the person or business that claims you owe them money) will both receive official stamped files setting a date for your pre-trial hearing. You should be there to present your case.
2. Ask for more information
If you are unclear on what the debt is or any of the details surrounding it, you can send the plaintiff or their lawyer a request for further and better particulates. They must provide you with further details and information about your debt.
3. You can pay the debt
Do not make any payments before talking to your lawyer! Paying the whole or partial amount of the debt is a step you should take if you agree with the plaintiff that you owe them money. If you decide to do that, you should inform the plaintiff with an official document that you can obtain from your courthouse to make sure that the claim is closed.
4. You can contact the plaintiff directly to arrange a payment in installments or another agreement.
Many times, responding directly to the plaintiff and resolving the claim without going to court is possible and preferred. You will save yourself a bunch of legal fees and a lot of time. Only do that if you acknowledge the debt.
If you are not sure what to do or need more help, contact your lawyer. It is always better to confirm that you are taking the right steps before acting.
Now you know the procedures, your rights and what to expect. However, this article is for information purposes only. It is advisable that you talk to your lawyer as each and every case is different. Your lawyer can assist you in getting the best resolution possible.