Credit Card Lawsuits, Part IV: What Happens if I Don't Respond

I have already discussed what constitutes a "response" to a credit card lawsuit, in general how to file one, and whether you should respond.

Even if you don't formally respond to the complaint, you should NOT ignore it. Negotiating a debt settlement or filing a bankruptcy will probably be your best options. Why should you not ignore the lawsuit?

First, when you do not respond, the complaint will become a "default judgment" roughly 30 days after it was served. That means the Court will find for the law firm of the credit card company suing you without you ever appearing in Court. The default judgment happens automatically. Does this seem unfair? Of course! But, it's a fact, so act accordingly.

A holder of a default judgment will have 20 years to "execute" on the judgment. This means they can take the default judgment and place a lien on a bank account, a car, your personal property, or even your home. Once this happens, you cannot transfer your home without the judgment holder getting paid. A lien on your bank account can occur at any time without your prior notice. You can literally lose an entire pay check (or two) before you realize what happened (hint: if there is a default judgment against you, stop your automatic deposit). You will receive service from the Court if a judgment holder attempts to put a lien on your home. If this happens, contact us immediately.

The lawsuit will not go away, so even if you don't have property now, it can be placed on after-acquired property. It can also prevent you from passing on property unencumbered to your children and heirs if you do not take action.

Another thing to point out briefly (to be discussed further in another set of posts)... the statute of limitations for collecting on a debt (4 years in Pennsylvania) does NOT apply to default judgments. Even if you had a proper statute of limitations defense, it must be raised BEFORE the deadline to answer the original complaint.

A second issue, even if you don't have any property to lien (right now) this default judgment will most likely destroy your credit. Clients I meet with are often concerned about the effects of bankruptcy on their credit score. I tell them a default judgment does FAR worse to their credit. They are like a malignant growth that constantly harms your credit by sending negative reports that don't go away.

So, if you do not respond, bad things happen. Liens and damaged credit are sure to follow. Contact us to determine if you are a candidate for bankruptcy or a debt negotiation. I frequently meet with clients in this situation. I can help.

Next, I will look at how bankruptcy deals with creditor lawsuits that have become, or will become, a default judgment.