Are you being sued by a collection agency? It probably won’t be long until your other creditors and debt collectors take you to court as well. So what do you do?

Once you’ve been served with a collection suit, you must act quickly. Depending on the rules for court cases in your state, you might have as few as five days to respond. The summons attached to the complaint will tell you the deadline for your response. If you don’t respond, the court could enter a judgment against you.

The lawsuit starts when the creditor, collection agency, or more likely their lawyer files a “complaint” or “petition” with the court. The complaint will list you as a defendant. The complaint will also state why the creditor is suing you, and what the creditor wants, usually money. Expect the complaint to contain a lot of “legalese.”

The creditor or collection agency must “serve” you with a copy of the complaint, along with a “summons.” The summons notifies you that you are being sued, and usually provides additional information such as when you need to file a formal response in court.

Most courts require the creditor to “serve” the documents by handing them to you personally. Most creditors hire a professional process server or a local sheriff to do this job. If the server can’t find you, often he or she can leave the summons and complaint with another adult at your home or business and then mail a copy to you.

Often, courts allow creditors to mail you the summons and complaint, along with a form for you to sign acknowledging that you received the papers. If you sign and return the form, you will have been deemed “served.” Often it’s a good idea to sign the form and return it. If you don’t and the creditor can later prove that you refused to do so, you might have to pay the process server costs, which can be between $35 and $150.

The creditor may sue you in state civil court (these courts can have many  names: municipal court, superior court, justice court, county court, to name just a few), or, if you owe money to the federal government, in federal court. Most states also allow creditors to sue in small claims court as long as the lawsuit asks for less than a certain amount. The amount varies by state and can be a few thousand dollars or as much as $10,000.

So what do you do? Financial Warranty’s team of legal and financial professionals will go over your case and make sure that your rights – and money – are protected. We can handle future lawsuits and take the weight – and worry – off of your shoulders.