Alabama Debt Collection Lawsuit Questions — Part Five — Fight Lawsuit On Your Own
IF I FIGHT THE COLLECTION LAWSUIT ON MY OWN…
“Who will file my answer in court?”
If you say, “I want to look at the option of fighting the lawsuit, but I do not want to hire a lawyer. I want to do it on my own.”
With this option, who will file your answer in court?
Well, that’s easy.
You will file it.
You don’t have a lawyer to file the answer for you so you file the answer in court.
“How do I file my answer in court?”
This naturally leads to the question, “Well, how do I file my answer in court?”
You file your answer in court by filling out the answer, and then you take that down to the clerk’s office.
So if you’re in small claims or district court, you go to the district court clerk’s office.
If you’re in circuit court, you go to the circuit clerk.
And you give the original of your answer to them.
I recommend take a couple of copies, get them to stamp those as being “filed” so you have proof that you filed them.
Then you keep one — scan it, get it up in the cloud (Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, etc.) or email it to your Gmail account, just so you have it up there, and you can prove that you filed your answer.
It is rare but if you only have a physical copy, you could lose that copy. Better to have it in the cloud as well.
And then send a copy of your filed answer to the other side, the collection lawyer that sued you.
“Can anyone help me in my trial?”
The answer is no.
Sometimes people say, “Well, look, my wife has been sued and she’s going to represent herself, but I’m going to be there at trial and tell her what to say. I’m going to question the debt collector.”
Well, you cannot do that unless you’re a lawyer.
And if the husband has been sued the wife can’t help him in the trial.
If you’re doing this on your own, it means you are doing this on your own.
Now your spouse or friend or family can be at the trial to offer moral support but they cannot speak on your behalf – you do that part.
“What can I do before trial to get prepared for my collection lawsuit?”
Several things you can do to get prepared.
You can go to court to your particular judge and watch your judge.
How you judge conducts her courtroom?
What does she say?
Is it very formal?
Is it informal?
How does she handle things?
Go watch your judge doing these exact types of cases so you can get an idea.
(It needs to be your judge – not another judge – because each judge is different).
And we have some resources for you that you can look at to help prepare yourself about the process, how to answer questions, etc. Just let us know and we’ll be happy to send these to you if you are sued in Alabama.
“What happens if I win my collection lawsuit?”
If you win your case, then that normally means you do not owe that debt buyer any money on this particular debt.
So Midland Funding sues you for $5,000.
You win your case. Guess what?
You do not owe Midland $5,000.
Because you won the lawsuit.
Remember you are innocent until proven guilty. Midland (or whoever) sued you and claimed you owe the money but it lost. So you do not owe the money.
“What happens if I lose my collection lawsuit?”
What happens if I lose my case?
Well, then you do owe Midland $5,000 or however much the judge says in his or her order.
Sometimes people say, “I lost my case but I don’t really owe them. This was bogus,” or, “I’ve got better evidence now,” or, “The judge should never have let them come into court.”
None of that matters.
If you lose, then you owe them money.
This is like after a football game the losing team saying, “But if we played again, we would win.” Or “The other team got lucky.”
Does not matter – there is a winner and a loser. That is what matters.
“Are there any tax consequences to fighting the collection lawsuit on my own?”
If you owe the money, in other words, you lose, well then you’ve got to pay it.
Now if you ultimately don’t pay that, then there can be some tax consequences.
But if you win, then that means you do not owe that money, so there is no forgiveness of debt that can result in a 1099 tax form being issued to you.
If you win your case then you do not owe Midland, or Portfolio or LVNV, whoever it is.
You do not owe them any money so there’s no money to be forgiven.
Obviously, you need to get with a tax person on this but I have never seen a situation where someone won their case and still got hit with taxes.
“What happens to my credit reports?”
If you win, you do not owe Midland or whoever the debt buyer is, you do not owe them any money so they should not be on your credit report.
But if you lose, then they can stay on your credit reports and you’ll have a judgment now on your credit report.
It all comes down to the winner and loser. Win your case and this normally means you do not owe the money.
Lose your case, and the debt buyer can continue to credit report on you.
“What are the best types of collection lawsuits to fight on my own?”
Small claims can be good. It is set up so that you do not have to have a lawyer.
District court is a little more complicated but that can be a type of case where you handle on your own.
I’ll tell you, the circuit court cases are very difficult.
So if you think of small claims as being not terribly complicated – it’s still a little complicated, but not terribly complicated – district court is multiples of that. Well, circuit court is many, many multiples of district court.
Lots of places where you could do everything right but then you stumble in one area and you lose.
So I would say the best types of cases to consider for handling on your own are small claims and district court, and then it does depend on what type of case, what type of defenses do you have. So you have to start analyzing that on your own or get with us to help you think through your options.
“Do you have any resources that can help me try my case on my own?”
As a reminder, we only handle cases in Alabama. I do not know how other states run their courts as I’m not licensed in other states.
But if you are sued in Alabama, give us a call at 205-879-2447, or you can always contact us through our website here.
We’ll send you some resources and talk to you about your particular type of case, does this make sense to do it on your own?
And there’s a lot of people we talk to, and we say, “You know what? In your situation, you should handle this on your own.” Or maybe somebody says, “I want to do it on my own. What do you think?” And we say, “Yes, it’s a great idea.”
And then there are other people, we say, “Look, you can do whatever you want, but I think you’re being pretty foolish if you do this on your own, or at least understand that you have a very low chance of success.”
Your next step in dealing with your collection lawsuit
OK, I hope this answers your questions about fighting your collection lawsuit on your own. Or at least answers enough to get you started.
Next, we will cover the option of you settling the lawsuit on your own — without hiring a lawyer.
Thank you for reading this and I hope these questions — and answers — are helpful to you.
Feel free to call us if you have a question about a collection lawsuit in Alabama — you can call us at 205-879-2447 or fill out our contact form and we’ll email or call you right back.
Look forward to talking to you soon!
PS — You may also want to get our checklist to use when you have been sued by a debt collector in Alabama — it is free for you to download.
And if you want the earlier parts of this series, you can find the overview, being served, your five options and the option of bankruptcy. And the entire video is here on youtube.