Every month in the Texas courts, literally thousands of debt lawsuits are filed by debt-buyers, lenders, creditors, and institutions with outstanding bills. Suppose you have been sued by any of these entities and received a debt claim citation in Texas. In that case, it is critical that you know how to respond and that you do so before the window closes and your opportunity to assert your defenses passes.
In this article, we outline the process for what happens when a creditor sues you in Texas, how to answer a lawsuit for debt collection, and filing an answer in Texas.
What Is the Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons in Texas?
A debtor who is sued in Texas by a creditor plaintiff is called the defendant. A defendant generally receives two documents in the mail, or someone (usually a court employee or process server) physically hands the documents to the defendant. These documents are called the Summons and Complaint, and service of these documents starts the clock for the lawsuit.
In Texas, a defendant has 20 days plus as many days as are needed to reach the first Monday from the time they are served, inclusive of weekends and holidays, to file an Answer to a lawsuit. Explained another way, if the defendant is served a Summons and Complaint on Friday the 13th, the defendant has until the 3rd of the next month (assuming a 30 day month) plus as many days forward until the next Monday. If the 3rd is a Thursday, for example, the defendant actually has until Monday the 7th to file their Answer.
The Answer may include affirmative defenses that can be proven more in-depth later on after some discovery. The Answer is the most common response in a debtor lawsuit, while a Motion to Dismiss, attempting to throw out the case for failing a factual or procedural legal shortcoming, is a less common response.
How to Respond to a Debt Lawsuit in Texas
To respond to the Summons and Complaint in a debt collection case in Texas, the defendant should:
- Answer each issue of the Complaint by stating that the defendant either admits, denies, or lacks sufficient information to answer the issue. Here is an answer to a debt collection lawsuit example: In response to an allegation that the defendant breached a contract to a credit card company, the defendant writes, “The defendant lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the facts contained in the allegation, and leaves the plaintiff to its proofs.”
- Assert any affirmative defenses, such as expiration of any applicable statutes of limitation and no proof of ownership of the debt in question.
- File one copy of the Answer with the court and serve the other copy on the Plaintiff.
Respond to the Complaint
The response to a debt collection lawsuit is called the Answer. The Answer is the defendant’s first response to the lawsuit, and moreover, the defendant’s first real entry into the lawsuit and chance to defend themselves.
With this in mind, there are several ways of how to answer a lawsuit for debt collection in Texas. The Answer can be drafted on a form available through the Texas State Courts system’s website. Alternatively, it can be a handwritten letter to the court indicating that the defendant does not agree with either each of the allegations in the lawsuit, by number (known as a “specific denial”) or with the entire lawsuit (known as a “general denial”).
Whichever option the defendant chooses, the defendant should include the caption, with the name of the lawsuit, parties, venue of the case, and docket number, on any pleadings filed with the court.
Assert Affirmative Defenses
Affirmative defenses can be included with any answer filed in debt collection litigation by the defendant. Affirmative defenses are reasons why the plaintiff has no case. They are assertive statements that need not be proven at the time they are made, but should be made, to reserve all possibilities for later in the litigation.
Some common affirmative defenses in debt settlement litigation include:
- The account in question is not the defendant’s account
- The plaintiff does not own the debt
- The contract in question was canceled
- The amount paid on the debt was satisfactory to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff released the defendant of any further obligations
- The debt has been otherwise paid off
- The statute of limitation (6 years in Texas for a debt) has passed, and therefore the plaintiff is barred from bringing suit
- The defendant was an unwitting or unwilling co-signor on the debt
File an Answer with the Court and Serve the Plaintiff
Being sued for a credit card debt in Texas can be unnerving, but fortunately, filing an Answer in Texas is easier than in other states because the Texas Courts maintain a system for electronic filing, or “e-filing” as it is sometimes called. E-filing allows a defendant in a debt collection lawsuit to generate and file their Answer online.
What Is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?
There are several state-created protections in Texas designed to protect consumers from harassing debt collection practices and to set the course for lawsuits for injunctive relief, civil and criminal fines against the collectors. Known as the Texas Debt Collection Act and Texas Deceptive Trade Practices/Consumer Protection Act, these laws are joined by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. It is aimed at regulating the conduct of debt collection agencies and attorneys hired to assist with the collection of debts. Below is a non-exhaustive list of the types of behaviors that debt collectors cannot do when you are sued by a collection agency in Texas.
The Texas state laws prohibit the following conduct:
- Abusive collection tactics
- Threats of violence or other criminal acts
- Use of profane language or obscenities
- Use of false names and misidentification
- Providing no name on a collections call or e-mail
- Misrepresenting the amount of a debt
- Failing to identify who holds the debt
- False accusations of consumer fraud or other crimes by the debtor
- Threats of arrest or repossession of property
- Trying to collect unjustifiable amounts
The federal law prohibits the following activities:
- Calls at work if the debt collector has reason to know the employer does not permit such calls
- Calls before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. unless the collector knows such times are more convenient for the debtor
- Unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect a debt
- Any conduct intended to harass, oppress or abuse the debtor
Contact the Law Office of Seth Kretzer for Debt Collection Help in Texas
When you need debt collection help, you want lawyers with specific experience in debt collection in Texas and who have the right knowledge and resources to help you. Contact attorney Seth Kretzer today to discuss your case.