ANSWER THE COMPLAINT. Rule #1. Always, always, always answer the complaint. ON TIME. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be good. Last week, I literally saw a handwritten note that said:
“I deny that I Ow any Mony.” (Original spelling.)
Some illiterate moron handed that to the circuit clerk and in so doing, placed himself in the 98th percentile of the legal intelligence of people who have been sued. If you don’t answer the complaint, you lose. If you do answer the complaint, then you may win, or if you do lose, you may not lose nearly as much as you thought you would. You have a better chance of winning than you think. In Alabama, you have to prove every element of your case if you want to win. So a complaint that says “This guy owes $3,408 on a credit card account, plus $1,196 of attorney’s fees” is very weak. He has to show that you signed a contract, or at least used a credit card to make purchases. He has to produce a witness, or at least documents (no less than 10 days before trial) that are admissible business records. If these aren’t attached to the complaint, they may not even exist anymore.
Just say that you demand a trial. This is America. Even terrorists get their day in court. Your only crime is not being able to pay off a credit card: you still have rights.
HIRE A LAWYER. There is no 5th Amendment privilege in a purely civil lawsuit. Unless they’re accusing you of criminal fraud, you can’t plead the 5th. Which means you can be asked by the judge and the turnip squeezer if you borrowed money. And you’ll lose. If you have a lawyer, however, you don’t have to be there. They can appear and contest the case without your presence. It ain’t that expensive. Losing at trial and having your wages garnished IS very expensive.
Next week, I’ll post a link to a denial you can use in Alabama to get your day in court.