Are you worried about getting served court papers? You’re not alone. Many people feel anxious or even scared when they think about being sued. Some may try to avoid getting served altogether. And it’s understandable – being served with legal papers can be a frightening experience.
But is this really a wise decision?
Dealing with debt can be burdensome. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, the last thing you’d want is to be sued by a creditor. Perhaps, you may be tempted to sneak out the back door to dodge project servers coming to serve you court papers.
However, while it’s not technically illegal to avoid being handed service of process, doing so won’t do you any good in the long run. In fact, you could be making things worse for yourself. So initially, if you thought avoiding service process servers was the answer to all of your problems, you may want to think again.
You should know a few things about what happens if you avoid getting served court papers. This article will walk you through some of the potential consequences of dodging service.
What does it mean to be served court papers for debt?
If you have debt, it’s likely has been accumulating for a while.
And at some point, the creditor may decide to take legal action to recoup the money they’re owed.
This usually happens after the creditor has tried unsuccessfully to get you to pay your debt voluntarily.
The legal process of creditor collection usually begins with the creditor sending you a letter demanding payment. If you still don’t pay, the creditor may decide to serve you with court papers. The court papers serve as a notification of this lawsuit and a summons for you to appear in court.
There are different ways the creditor can serve you with these court papers. They can send them to you by mail, have them delivered to your home, or hand them to you in person.
These are the types of people that are legally allowed to serve you court papers:
- A process server appointed by the court
- A sheriff or constable
- Someone over 18 years old who is not a party to the lawsuit
- A relative or friend
- Licensed private investigators
- Peace officers
- Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs
- State-employed investigators who are authorized to serve process.
- Licensed private investigators
If they succeed in serving you the court papers, they will file a “Proof of Service” with the court. This document verifies that you were notified of the lawsuit and provides details about how and when you were served.
Immediately that’s done, the clocks start ticking, and you have a specific number of days to take action. Although it may seem easier to avoid being served, doing so will only make things more difficult down the line. It’s always better to be proactive when it comes to legal action.
You also need to verify that the paperwork is legal. There are cases where debt collectors send out fake court papers to scare the person they are trying to collect money from.
Being served a lawsuit isn’t the end of the world. If you’re served with a lawsuit, it doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to lose. So it’s important to take action before it is too late.
What are the possible consequences of avoiding service?
You may find satisfaction playing a game of cat and mouse with project servers, but in reality, the courts aren’t playing around. Sooner or later, you will have to face the music.
When it comes to legal action, the consequences of avoiding service can be severe. Here are a few potential consequences:
The server may try other tactics to hand you the papers.
Sneaking out the back door and avoiding process servers altogether might seem like a good idea, but it can backfire. The creditor may employ other tactics to hand you the court papers.
For example, if they can’t find you at home, they may try to contact you at work, which could be embarrassing. Or, they may give it to someone authorized to receive the papers on your behalf.
Worse yet, if the court papers are delivered by certified mail, it may be counted that it has been delivered.
The creditor may get a default judgment against you.
If you don’t show up in court to defend yourself, the creditor could file for a default judgment. This is a ruling by the court in favor of the creditor, even if you don’t have a chance to present your case. Which means you automatically lose the case.
Default judgments can have serious consequences, such as wage garnishment or seizure of your assets.
So, if you’re served with court papers, it’s vital to take action and speak to an attorney. Ignoring the situation will only make it worse.
What should you do after you have been served?
If avoiding service seems like too much trouble or you’re simply not up for the challenge, remember that there are other ways to handle the situation.
Once you have been served court papers, you have limited time to take action or risk getting a default judgment.
Different states have different timeframes for you to file a response. This process is called the “answer deadline.” It is usually around 20 to 30 days.
In California, the answer deadline is 30 days. However, it is crucial to know the answer deadline for your state.
Filing an answer won’t only protect you from a default judgment, but it will also give you an opportunity to dispute the allegations. In a court of law, the plaintiff will have the burden of proof in a civil case.
Don’t be surprised; most times, some debt collectors might not even have enough evidence to back up their allegations. If this is the case, an answer can be a powerful tool to get the case dismissed.
So filing for an answer is your only chance to defend yourself.
Escaping process servers may seem like a great idea at the moment, but it could have serious consequences. If you are dodging service of court papers, you’re likely hiding from a legal process that you can’t avoid. Ignoring the court’s orders will only make the situation worse.
If the creditor can prove that they properly served you with notice, the court will likely enter a default judgment in their favor. This means that the creditor will win the case by default and may be able to take steps to collect on the debt, such as garnishing your wages or seizing your assets. Don’t let this happen to you.
Stand up for yourself and file an answer to the court papers. This will show the creditor that you are not going to back down and that you are taking the case seriously. Plus, if you have a good defense, you may be able to win the case outright.