05 Jun Move Fast to Protect Your Case
One day you get served with a summons and a bunch of papers. It is from a credit card company. It’s an irritating step in a long-standing dispute and it only serves to toughen your resolve to not give in. You fold up the paper and move on with your life.
Six months down the road, you’re sitting at a restaurant with your family on a Saturday afternoon. Work has been busy, your kids’ sports season is in full swing and you have long since stopped answering the credit card company’s phone calls. The waiter returns to your table and hands your debit card back to you. “It was rejected”, he explains. Was it identity theft? Did it expire? Surely there must be an explanation. You hop on your phone’s browser to check it out. Your checking account has been emptied.
You call the bank and they explain that the credit card company attached to your bank account. The money was taken to pay back the debt that the credit card claimed you owed. How did that happen? You had a great defense, they were overcharging you. But, since you chose to ignore the lawsuit, the Court granted the credit card company all of the relief it requested through what is called a Default Judgment.
A Default Judgment is entered when one party refuses to participate in the proceedings. In the present example, you were served with a summons and a copy of the Petition detailing why the credit card company was suing and what they wanted out of the suit. You or your attorney had a set amount of time (usually thirty days) to file an Answer with the Court. An Answer formally admits or denies the allegations in the Petition. And at that point a court date is set for the lawsuit to begin.
By refusing to show up to Court or hire an attorney or file an Answer yourself, you sent a message to the Court that you were not going to participate. So you lost by default. A Default Judgment can be overturned in certain circumstances, but it is more costly and risky than just preventing it in the first place.
How can you prevent a Default Judgment?
- Don’t ignore problems.
- Don’t delay. You only have so many days to file an official response.
- Read your paperwork. If a court date has been set, it will be listed.
- Don’t contact opposing counsel or the opposing side (whether that be a credit card company or spouse) to try to work something out off the record. Since it isn’t on record with the Court, it won’t help you protect your rights.
- Hire an Attorney ASAP so they have plenty of time to investigate and file an accurate Answer.
While it’s important to move on with your life, it is also important to act quickly to preserve your defense and protect your rights. Don’t sit on your opportunity to defend yourself.