“What does it mean to go to trial in my debt collection lawsuit?”

“What does it mean to go to trial in my debt collection lawsuit?”

"What does it mean to go to trial in my debt collection lawsuit?"You have been sued in Alabama and filed your answer to the complaint, now you have a trial date.  Let’s talk about what this means.

You must mark this date down on your calendar!

If you miss the trial date, you lose.  We see this happen so often:

  • Someone gets sued by LVNV, Midland, Portfolio, etc.
  • They avoid a default judgment by answering the lawsuit
  • Get a trial date
  • Don’t show up
  • Lose by default judgment

This is like quitting a race right as you get to the end.

Make sure you are off work or have child care or whatever you need to do to make sure you can appear in court on your trial date.

You must go watch a trial before your trial date comes around.

This is one piece of advice that is critical, but hardly anyone will do it which is foolish.

Here’s the deal for most people and probably for you as well:

  • You are not a lawyer
  • This is your first trial you will ever do
  • You are feeling some nervousness about going to trial as there will be a judge and a lawyer on the other side
  • The stakes are high as your credit report will be hurt by a judgment and your bank account can be garnished and wages garnished

So if the first time you walk into the actual courtroom where your case is going to be tried is the actual morning of trial, then your nerves will normally be sky high.  The collection lawyers know this and count on this causing you to make mistakes.

The solution is easy.

Go the week before.  Go to the courtroom where your case will happen.  Call ahead of time to the judge’s office to see when he or she will have some trials.

Go watch.

Get a feel for the courtroom.  A feel for how the judge acts.  What goes on there.

It will make a world of difference.

“But I don’t have time to do this.”

I get it.  We are all busy.

But if you have decided not to spend money as you want to handle yourself, then you need to spend time.  Either spend money or spend time.

You are only cheating yourself if you spend neither.

If you are acting as your own lawyer, then understand the rules of evidence.

Speaking of spending time — you must spend time understanding what the rules are that govern the trial.  Learn about rules of evidence so if the collection lawyer tries to put into evidence something that should not be there, you can object.

This does take effort and time but here is the good news.

You don’t have to know the rules perfectly to understand a few key concepts which I’ll summarize (I can’t cover every exception to these but this will give you a starting place) here:

  • The whole document needs to come into evidence, not just the front page of an alleged “purchase agreement”
  • Witnesses need to only speak about things they have personal knowledge about — not what they think the original creditor did
  • Having copies of old billing statements does not prove you owe the debt collector

Remember the difference between “owing” a debt and the debt collector actually OWNING your debt.

The debt collector wants to focus on you owing the debt.  Maybe you do.  Maybe you don’t.

But a big difference in owing the debt and the debt buyer owning the debt.

Let me illustrate it this way.

I assume you owe a mortgage (or rent) on where you live.

So I’m going to sue you for your mortgage payment.

In court I ask you:  “Do you admit you owe a mortgage on the house?”

You admit this.

I look at the judge and say, “Well, that proves it!”

The judge would be confused and then say, “Mr. Watts, what difference does it make that she owes a mortgage.  The question is does she owe YOU.”

Same with collecting a debt.

The collector must prove, at trial, two things:

  • You OWE the debt
  • Debt collector OWNS the debt

If either one of these is missing, the collector loses.

Finally, you may want to think about hiring a lawyer if you decide handling your trial on your own is not best for you.

You need to be prepared to act as your own lawyer when you go into a trial.

If you are concerned about this, then consider hiring a lawyer.

Two ways to do this.

One is to hire the lawyer to help you get ready for trial.  Depending on which type of court you were sued in — Circuit, District, or Small Claims — this can be a good option.

Or you can hire the lawyer to handle the trial for you.  Normally when we represent someone, we do not take them to trial as there is nothing we need to prove.

Remember the debt buyer who sued you must prove you OWE the debt and that it OWNS the debt.

They struggle mightily to do this in our experience.

If we can be of help to you in your collection case filed in Alabama, let us know by calling us at 205-879-2447 and make sure and tell the receptionist you have a trial date in a collection case you want to talk about.  Or you can tell us directly on our website by filling out our contact form.


  1. Tom B says:

    Thanks so very much for the Alabama Consumer website. The information on this site was invaluable in my defense of a lawsuit filled by Midland Funding, LLC over alleged credit card debt.

    • John Watts says:

      That’s great Tom!! We’ll get in touch with you to get more details and congrats on doing such a great job winning your case!

      John Watts

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