Question: I recently sent a validation letter to a law firm that was trying to collect a CC debt. I got back the return receipt showing they got it,next thing I know they are trying to serve me court papers. Can they just ignore my request? What should I do now?
Answer: If you sent a timely validation request to the debt collector then a lawsuit in response to your request is not debt validation.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Section 809(a) says: “…Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication [provide] a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector…”
If you failed to request debt validation within that initial 30-day time period, the debt collector does not have to provide debt validation. However, the FDCPA, Section 809 (c) says: “The failure of a consumer to dispute the validity of a debt under this section may not be construed by any court as an admission of liability by the consumer.”
Therefore, you have not lost your rights to dispute, request validation and fight the debt but you will have to do that within the confines of the lawsuit. At this time your main concern is the lawsuit. YOU MUST ANSWER THE COMPLAINT. Please do not ignore the lawsuit as most consumers unfortunately do.
Debt collectors count on consumers ignoring lawsuits and not fighting back, making it easy for them to win a default judgment. Once a judgment has been entered, your wages could be garnished, a lien could be placed on your property and bank accounts could be levied.
Even if you do not have an attorney you should file an Answer to the lawsuit. Your reply can be as simple as stating whether or not you agree with the statements in the complaint and your reasons why. Court clerks can be helpful in directing you to the right forms to fill-out.
Act quickly because you may only have 20-30 days (depending on the court rules in your State) to answer the Complaint. Doing nothing will be an automatic win for the debt collector.
Naca.net has a list of attorneys by State that specialize in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, they may be able to provide assistance. Also, most courts can refer you to legal aid in your area. Legal aid may be able to draft an Answer for you. Good luck to you.