Have you been sued by a credit card company? Here's what you should do:
- If you can, consult with a lawyer. Many lawyers offer free consultations. The lawyers that handle these types of suits may charge a flat fee and offer payment plans.
- If you believe you still can't afford a lawyer, file an answer! A lot of the debt collection suits in Texas are filed in the Justice of the Peace Courts. Many courts have an answer form at the Court you can fill out. This isn't always ideal because you may have defenses that you don't know about. These defenses need to be included in your answer. Filing the answer form will slow the process of the suit. Texas Appleseed (https://www.texasappleseed.org/debt-collection) is an excellent resource if you decide not to hire a lawyer. Check out their Debt Collection Rights Toolkit at http://mydebtcollectionrights.org/.
- Attend all scheduled hearings! If you do not attend, it is easier to have a judgment entered against you, even if you filed an answer.
- Some courts (I have seen this mainly in Harris County) offer free mediation on your court date. Take advantage of this if offered! You may be able to negotiate a payment plan for an amount lower than the amount originally asked for by the credit card company.
- If you enter a payment plan, be sure to stick to it! If you don't, the credit card company may resort to further collection efforts. They cannot garnish your wages, but they can garnish your bank account. Sometimes, this happens years after judgment.
Whatever course you decide to take, do not bury your head in the sand and hope that it just goes away - it won't without action on your part!
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