What does it mean to be served with a collection lawsuit?

What does it mean to be “served” with a collection lawsuit?

What does it mean to be "served" with a collection lawsuit?You know you have been sued with a collection lawsuit and you understand the next step is to be “served.”

What does this mean?

Why do you need to know?

Because knowing what it means is vital to understanding what steps to take next in the lawsuit.

This is where the lawsuit is handed to you.

Here are some different ways this can happen:

  • It can be by certified mail.
  • You may physically be handed the lawsuit papers by a sheriff’s deputy or a private process server (such as VanSlam). This can be at work, at home, or in public.
  • Or, it can be left with a resident adult who is competent and at your house.

Why is this important?  Because being served is this is the trigger to starting the time limit to respond to the lawsuit.

Here are your time limits in Alabama:

  • 14 days for small claims court
  • 14 days for district court
  • 30 days for circuit court

Click here to find a more detailed discussion of the time limits to answer and what happens if you don’t answer in time.  Hint:  Default judgment.  Which is something you must avoid!

We’ll talk in a future article about what “answering” a lawsuit means.

Contact Us.

If you have questions about your five options when sued in Alabama, please feel free to get in touch with us.

If you want help understanding if you have been served,  we will help you.

You may want help going over your five options and we’ll gladly help you.

Perhaps you are that rare person that bankruptcy is appropriate for.

Maybe you should fight the lawsuit on your own.

Or consider settling on your own.

And if it makes sense to hire us as your lawyer, we’ll discuss how we settle and try cases.  (You can read a series of short articles and watch videos that take you from hiring us to the case being finished).

You can reach us by phone at 205-879-2447 or contacting us through our contact form here.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

John G. Watts

By the way, no matter where you live in Alabama, we can represent you.

PS — You may enjoy this article that discusses the interesting strategy of filing an answer before you are even served.


  1. Kenny Williamson says:

    I recently settled with an attorney representing capital one– in small claims court- unfortunately I came to realize I was dealing with a debt collector- long story why I didn’t seek legal advice from my attorney friends– do I have options?

    • John Watts says:


      If you have settled your small claims lawsuit then that is normally the end of the matter. If this ever comes up in the future, and I hope it doesn’t, definitely consult with a lawyer to get the “lay of the land” on your options going forward.

      Now if the settlement has fallen apart or if the company that sued you is not honoring the settlement, then you may have some options.

      Safest thing to do is to go ahead and consult with a lawyer even now so after hearing the whole situation, they can give you some advice.

      Best wishes and thanks for your comment.

      John Watts

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