A Guide to Dealing With Debt Collection Summons

In some sense, a debt lawsuit gets underway once you receive a summons from a court. This basically notifies you that a creditor is suing you, and also informs you of the reason. While dealing with debt collection summons might seem daunting to most, know that there are things you can do to place yourself in a better legal position. More often than not, discussing your case with an attorney who specializes in debt collection is the ideal way to go.

Respond in Time

Responding to your summons in time is crucial. In California, the deadline for submitting your reply is 30 days. It increases to 40 days if a creditor mails you the documents or if someone else in your house receives them on your behalf. However, you need to make sure that the plaintiff’s proof of service clearly indicates that you did not receive the summons in person. Failure to respond in time takes away your legal right to present your case or defend yourself, and this may lead to a default judgment against you.

Address All the Points in the Summons

All good < a href="https://lpglaw.com/civil-litigation/">civil litigation attorneys who specialize in debt-related cases make sure that they provide answers to all the points in the summons their clients receive. With debt collection cases, you may expect to see between 10 and 30 numbered paragraphs. You need to go through each carefully to determine how best to respond. You get three basic alternatives.

  • You may admit to the information given in a paragraph.
  • You may deny the information and put the onus of proving it on the creditor.
  • You may deny the information citing a lack of knowledge about the matter at hand.

In some cases, denying all the paragraphs might work as an effective strategy because the plaintiff then needs to prove all the points in question.

Challenge the Plaintiff’s Right to Sue

It’s common for original creditors to sell debts they cannot collect to third-party collection agencies. In fact, debt can be sold more than once. By challenging a plaintiff’s right to sue you, you essentially ask for a credit agreement and verification that the paperwork comes from the original creditor. If a plaintiff is unable to provide the required documentation, a judge might simply dismiss the suit.

The Consequence of Not Responding

Not responding to debt collection summons does not mean that the case with not proceed. On the contrary, this may lead to the court proceedings taking place in your absence, and the plaintiff could win a default judgment. By not responding to your summons in the first place, you lose your legal right to challenge the judgment.

In case a court rules against you and the judgment requires that you pay the debt, the plaintiff might be able to garnish your income or bank account. While you might be able to get help with a garnished bank account by filing a claim of exemption, there is no guarantee of success.

In addition to the money you owe, debt collectors may also ask courts to award money to cover interest, collection costs, and legal fees. While such judgments no longer appear on your credit report, they are part of public records, and this may impair your ability to get credit in the near future.


While not many people have the legal know-how to deal with debt collection summons in the right manner, there is no dearth of those who attempt to do so on their own. However, you should know that people who are embroiled in debt collection lawsuits have a better chance of settling or winning if they seek legal representation. As a result, if you’ve received a debt collection summons, contacting an attorney who specializes in this field as quickly as possible might be in your best interest.