This is a common question I am asked the first time I speak to a new client. They have been sued by a creditor, usually on an old credit card debt or car repossession, and the paperwork the sheriff has served on them mentions a hearing date and time. Not surprisingly, this is a major concern.
We are conditioned to believe that not showing up to a hearing will have big, important, negative repercussions. In most cases this is true. When you don't show up to a court hearing, the judge will automatically rule against you and/or find you in contempt of court. In almost every situation, it is advisable to appear at a court action you are served with, and in most cases it is advisable to retain a lawyer.
Whether or not you should appear at a creditor lawsuit related to a debt will depend on one question... are you filing a bankruptcy? If the answer is "yes", you will probably NOT appear at the creditor lawsuit held at the Court of Common Pleas or magistrate level. Why is this seemingly negligent course prudent? It's alright not to show up when you are filing a bankruptcy because the bankruptcy will discharge the the underlying debt to the lawsuit. There is no reason to waste your time or pay a costly legal bill and have an attorney appear when the default judgment will be discarded anyways by the Bankruptcy Court. The automatic stay will stop the lawsuit, and the bankruptcy discharge will eliminate the lawsuit. The court will not hold you in contempt, as this is the normal practice.
Now, if for any reason, the debt related to the creditor lawsuit will NOT be included in the bankruptcy, you should be prepared to answer the lawsuit and appear in Court.
Contact us if you have been sued by a creditor on a debt. You should act as quickly as possible, as you only have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit in writing after you have been served, or the Court will cancel the hearing date and rule against you WITHOUT A HEARING. Yes, you read that correctly.
Call my office to speak to an experienced Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney who can explain your rights to you and determine if bankruptcy is an option. It will be possible to file a bankruptcy even after the lawsuit has become a judgment, so it's never too late. You will need to do something about the judgment, because it will be good for 20 years, and may result in the loss of your home, car, bank account, or personal property.
Call sooner, not later...