The scenario is all too commonplace. You fall behind on a debt. The creditor sends you a few collection letters. You overlook or perhaps ignore the notices. Payment is not made. Creditor then commences a lawsuit in the Rhode Island State District Court. Several thousand of these types of lawsuits are filed by debt collectors each year in Rhode Island. What should you do when you receive this type of legal paperwork? First, you need to read the statement of facts raised in the complaint. Most collection lawyers try to keep it short and sweet so the complaint is usually very simple and easy to read. The complaint should inform you of the following: (1) who is actually suing you, (2) what is the nature of the debt, and(3) how much do they say you owe. If you owe the money then there isn’t any urgency to respond. However, if you take No action, a creditor will obtain a court judgment against you and thereafter your assets can be seized or attached to satisfy the obligation. A judgment creditor is allowed to attach wages in Rhode Island. So even if you owe the debt, it is probably worth the investment to retain a lawyer to file an answer in the case and work towards a favorable payment resolution. If you don’t owe the debt or if you are not sure that you do, then it is imperative to respond timely to the complaint. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to hire an attorney to answer this type of case. Under Rhode Island law, you have 20 days to file an answer with the clerk of the court. If you fail to file any answer, you will be defaulted and a judgment confirming that you owe the money as stated in the complaint will be entered by the Judge. Once a judgment is entered against you it is difficult and costly to undo or vacate. I am amazed at the number of people who have good defenses to these types of collection actions, but choose to sit back and do nothing. If you don’t owe the debt or if you are not sure that you owe the obligation then you absolutely should (must) speak to an attorney.
Christopher M. Lefebvre, Pawtucket Rhode Island.