What you don’t know can destroy your debt collection lawsuit. Most often when you are sued by a debt buyer or some other creditor they will be represented by an attorney. Just as often people that get sued by a debt buyer will be representing themselves. Either people can’t afford an attorney or it doesn’t make sense to pay a bunch of money to hire a lawyer because the amount in dispute is relatively small.
While many people do an adequate job of representing themselves in small claims cases and other debt collection lawsuits, you can plan on the attorney representing the debt buyer to use every procedural mechanism to their advantage in their attempts to pin a judgment on you. What makes things even tougher is in most jurisdictions the judges are required to hold you to the same legal standards as they do the lawyers. This means you will be required to know and understand the Rules of Civil Procedure that govern debt collection lawsuits.
Requests for Admissions
During a debt collection lawsuit one of the things that trips people up is written discovery. In civil lawsuits each party can write up a series of questions (called interrogatories) and make the other side answer them. They can also send over a request for documents to be produced, and can also send over something called Requests for Admissions.
Requests for Admission are a series of questions where the answer is either “yes” or “no”. Basically the debt buyer will write up a statement you have to tell them whether you admit it or deny it. For instance, the debt buyer may state “Admit that you owe this debt.” And then you have to either admit it or deny it. Sounds pretty easy, right?
The thing that trips up most people is that you are required to answer the Requests for admission within a set time period. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (which most state rules are based on) requires that you submit a written response within 30 days after you receive them. Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure deals with Requests for Admission and likely the rule in your state is under Rule 36 as well. What happens if you don’t? The rules say that if you fail to respond, then the court must treat the question as if you had admitted it.
This means if you received a Request for Admission that states “Admit that you owe this debt” and you fail to respond within the 30 days, that the court will treat it as if you admitted that you owe the debt. This kills your case. If your case ends up in trial the judge will have to start from the position that have already admitted that you owe the debt. This is a big problem if you were hoping to actually win your case.
If you have received written discovery, and especially if you have received Requests for Admission, make sure you calendar the deadline when they are due and maybe even find an attorney to talk to and make sure you are answering them correctly.
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