What are my time limits to answering a collection lawsuit in Alabama?

“What are my time limits to answering a collection lawsuit in Alabama?”

What are my time limits to answering a collection lawsuit in Alabama?When you are sued in Alabama for a collection lawsuit, it is critical to know when your Answer is due.  If you miss this deadline, the other side can get a “default judgment” against you which can lead to garnishments and even the loss of your home.

Your time limit depends on two things:

  1. When were you “served”
  2. What court were you sued in

When were you served with the collection lawsuit?

It is critical you know when you were served. If you have any doubts call the clerk of the court in the county where you are sued and ask them to see if they have it in the court records when you were served.

Being served normally means the lawsuit papers (complaint and summons) are handed directly to you or they are left with an adult resident of your home.

This date is the beginning of the countdown.  So how many days do you have to respond to the lawsuit from when you were served?

It depends on what court you were sued in . . . .

What court were you sued in?

Here are the three types of courts you will normally be sued in Alabama:




The lawsuit (complaint) will tell you where you have been sued and the type of court you have been sued you as well as how much you have been sued for.

You should also receive what is called a “summons” that tells you how long you have to answer the lawsuit.

But even if you don’t get the summons, make sure you answer in time.

The bottom line on your time limits to answer the collection lawsuit

If you miss the deadline, you will likely get hit with a default judgment which means you lose. It also means you will face garnishment of wages and bank accounts, liens on property, and even the forced sale of your house or other real or personal property.

So take this very seriously to make sure you answer within the deadline.

If you have missed the deadline, take immediate action as sitting still never solves the problem when you are behind on a deadline.

If you would like to know more about your five options when sued in Alabama, start with this video.

Then call us at 205-879-2447 or contact us through our contact page.

We will be happy to arrange a meeting or phone call in the immediate future so you can gain peace of mind and not miss your deadline.

John Watts



  1. […] many people let their lawsuits slide (they don’t answer in the time limits) and they automatically lose because they don’t take it seriously.  This is called a default […]

  2. […] When they serve you the lawsuit, the clock starts ticking for you to answer the lawsuit. […]

  3. Roy Taylor says:

    I filed against the defendant and they had 14 days to respond. The time should start when they were served and I have record from the Sheriff of the service time and the reply time…14 days past by 2-3 hrs. and I filed for default to the Judge ( paid $50.) and he declined default. Can I appeal the Judges decision ? or does the burden of proof shift to the defendant?

    • John Watts says:


      I’m assuming you are talking about in Alabama.

      The judge may have thought the full 14 days in small claims or district court had not yet passed.

      If that time is gone, you may want to consider asking again or you may be coming up on a trial date anyway.

      He could have denied default for some other reason — there was not sufficient proof of service or damages, etc.

      Any number of reasons.

      Normally you would not appeal a denial of a motion for default — instead, you would go to trial.

      You may want to get a collection lawyer to help you in this matter.

      Best wishes

      John Watts

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