In the event you absolutely cannot afford an attorney to defend you, you can represent yourself "in pro per". You would file either an Answer or a General Denial, and pay the first appearance filing fee.
The form for the Answer is (Judicial Council Form PLD-C-010):
The form for the General Denial is (Judicial Council Form PLD-050):
The answer does not need to be notarized.
File the original Answer and submit one copy to be "conformed" to the court clerk. Have another copy mailed to the plaintiff's counsel. Someone other than yourself should sign the Proof of Service.
Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.
Before you need to know the "steps" to litigate, I'd recommend you first explore your options, including discussing this with an experienced debt collection defense attorney, who will elaborate on your particular situation. The first video on the home page of my web site reviews your options and on my law blog I have several postings for DIY debt collection defense.
Have you seen if you can settle this debt or spoken with a debt collection consumer attorney, yet? I urge you not to frustrate yourself trying to go up against a law firm that can get a judgment against you, after you have filed your responsive papers in court. I have linked to a particular blog on your next steps.
Robert Stempler (please see DISCLAIMER below)
NOTICE: The above statements are provided for general information purposes only and are not intended as legal advice or advice of any sort for a specific case or legal matter. If you do not have a signed attorney-client fee agreement with the Consumer Law Office of Robert Stempler, APC ("the Firm"), then until such written fee agreement is provided and signed by both a prospective client and attorney for a particular case, neither Mr. Stempler nor the Firm will represent you nor will they be your attorney in any matter and you remain responsible for retaining your own attorney and for compliance with any and all deadlines and for any statutes of limitations that may pertain to potential claims. Comments made on a public forum, such as Avvo.com, to not have any confidentiality because others may read them. If you desire a private consultation with Mr. Stempler that is confidential, please go to www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com and submit a free eCase Review. The result portrayed for a client was dependent on the facts of that case. Results will differ if based on different facts. The Firm and Mr. Stempler are a debt relief agency. The Firm and Mr. Stempler help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.
Just to add one more thing to Mr. Chen's response, in the event you cannot afford to pay the first appearance fee, you can try to get a fee waiver, if you qualify. The link below is from the California Courts website and explains fee waivers. Best of luck to you.
If you dont file a proper answer w/in the reqd timeframe, they will automatically get a judgment against you for the amount they are suing for, plus costs and atty fees. if the debt is old, it may be beyond the statute of limitations, and you may have a defense. You should review this with a local debt defense atty right away.
You could have defenses. Feel free to contact our offices for a free consultation on your rights - 619 233 7770.
Hyde & Swigart is a law firm concentrating its efforts in the area of consumer law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq. (“FDCPA”), and California's Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, California Civil Code §§ 1788-1788.32 ("Rosenthal Act"). Our lawyers are specially trained in the Federal FDCPA, Consumer Defense, and other consumer related matters. Our goal is to protect you against unfair, deceptive and abusive debt collection practices. Creditors, professional debt collectors, and attorneys who violate the law are subject to paying damages, statutory penalties, and the consumer's attorneys fees and costs. If you feel you have been abused, deceived or treated unfairly, you may need a lawyer. We can be reached at 858 900 7342 , or through one of the evaluation forms on this site.