- How do you know you have been sued?
- What are your deadlines so you don’t get a default judgment against you?
- What are your five options?
- Most important — what should you do right now?
Here’s how you normally know Portfolio Recovery Associates is suing you in Alabama:
- You get served by the sheriff or a private process server — they hand you the lawsuit papers.
- Or you get a letter from a lawyer (usually a bankruptcy lawyer) telling you that you have been sued even though you have not been served yet
Here’s the best suggestion I can give you — if you are told by someone or even suspect that you have been sued by Portfolio, take action. Call the court in your county and see if they have a lawsuit. Or you can call Carolyn in my office at 205-879-2447 and she can look up your name on Alacourt the online court system. (Note: if you have a previous name (maiden, former name before a divorce, etc) give Carolyn all those names as often you will be sued under a previous name).
You must find out if you have been sued. And if you have been sued, what’s the date you were served?
The date of being served starts the clock running on your deadlines so it is vital to know this. Let’s talk about your deadlines now.
What are your deadlines to file an answer so you don’t get a default judgment against you?
The time period you have to answer is:
If sued in Small Claims OR District Court in Alabama — you have 14 days from the date of service.
If you were sued in Circuit Court in Alabama — your deadline is 30 days from the date of service.
(Here is a handy calculator to help you figure this out — but also count the days manually).
Now you may be wondering, well what does it actually mean to be served?
Basically, it means you personally were handed the lawsuit papers. Or they were left with an adult living at your residence. Or you were given certified mail with the papers. (Here is an in-depth article on service in Alabama from a long series we have on debt collection lawsuits).
Ultimately you or your lawyer will want to respond (or answer) the lawsuit but first let’s figure out what option you want to take out of the five you have open to you.
What are your five options to deal with the Portfolio Recovery lawsuit?
Here are your five options:
- File bankruptcy
- Fight the Portfolio Recovery lawsuit on your own
- Settle the Portfolio Recovery suit on your own
- Hire a lawyer to fight the collection lawsuit
- Hire a lawyer to help you settle the collection lawsuit
(Now two options you can do without a lawyer)
Fight Portfolio On Your Own — this can be a good idea. Especially in small claims or district court (see article for in-depth discussion). You save money on hiring a lawyer but you will have to know the rules of court to handle this on your own.
Settle Lawsuit On Your Own — you spend no money on a lawyer and instead negotiate the lawsuit yourself. This can work and here is an article to give you some ideas. Do keep in mind about credit reporting (as Portfolio almost always credit reports) and taxation for the amount of money that is “forgiven” by Portfolio.
(Now two options where you do hire a lawyer to represent you)
Hire Lawyer To Fight Lawsuit — the objective here is to win the case. So your lawyer files the answer to the lawsuit and then goes to trial. Make sure you are clear with your lawyer about how much you will owe in legal fees and what the chances of success are in fighting Portfolio Recovery.
Hire Lawyer To Settle Lawsuit — here, your lawyer negotiates a settlement with Portfolio Recovery. Make sure you understand how much (if any) you will pay, what happens to credit reporting, and will Portfolio send you a 1099 form for taxes. (We discuss this option in detail here).
And keep this in mind — there is a huge difference in filing a lawsuit and proving a lawsuit. A difference in claiming Portfolio owns the debt and actually proving it owns the debt.
Portfolio Recovery can claim it owns the debt but can it prove it?
Remember this as you pick your option.
What should you do right now — your next step to take?
Ultimately you have to decide what is best for you.
You may be able to do this on your own — make a decision without speaking with a lawyer. But my suggestion is talk to a lawyer who does this type of work. There will be (at least with my firm) no charge to do so. We will help you go over your options so then you can make the right decision for you.
Whoever you speak with, make sure you get your questions answered.
Ultimately whatever decision you make you must — and can — feel comfortable and confident in what you are doing. Study your options and then take action!
If we can help you in any way — call us at 205-879-2447 and ask to speak to Carolyn. We represent Alabama citizens in all courts in Alabama so whether you are sued in Mobile or Montgomery or Birmingham or Huntsville — anywhere in Alabama — we will be glad to help you. Our fee does not change based on where you are as we have cases in all parts of this great state.
Look forward to hearing from you and thank you for taking the time to read this article!