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What will happen if I missed the deadline to file an answer to a court summons for an old credit card debt? Can I file late?

Birmingham, AL |

I received a "Statement of Claim" from our local district court on December 5th, 2009. It states that I had 14 days to file an answer. Regretably, I put it aside (in a safe place) and forgot about it until I came across it again today! Is there anything I can do now? What can I expect? I am out of work (laid off since February 2009)and I do not receive any type of compensation.

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

The first thing you need to do when you get sued is file an Answer. The summons will tell you that you must “appear” by way of an Answer in 10, 20 or 30 days, “depending on the method of service.”

Many people think this means they have to go to Court and this is incorrect. 90% of all lawsuits end in Default Judgments because the defendant (person getting sued) did not file an Answer.

I recommend you go to the free form I have on my website at . Print it out and fill it out as instructed. You must answer the numbered paragraphs on the Complaint by writing them into the appropriate lines in the Answer. The Answer will allow you to preserve your rights and will prohibit a default judgment (i.e. you did not show up) from being entered against you.

Mimic the paperwork you got when you got sued. Answer all the paragraphs of the Complaint by writing the numbers in lines 1, 2 or 3.

Almost 100% of attorneys will deny what is owed because they did not do the calculations and do not know what the basis for the number is…

When you file the Answer that is your “not guilty”. You have the right to make the person suing you (Plaintiff) prove their case, but you must also answer the complaint truthfully.

Make sure you fill in the name and address of the attorney suing you before you bring this paperwork to the Court. Mail it to the attorney suing you right away!

Good Luck!

Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted in the States of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts Only and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to those three States. This advice is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation. Facts and laws change and these possible changes will affect the advice provided here. Consult an attorney in your locale before you act on any of this advice. You should not rely on this advice alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney client relationship. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author only and the fact that he has worked as an Assistant District Attorney; State Supreme Court Clerk; Special Assistant United States Attorney (Hawaii); Assistant Cornell University Counsel or Judge Advocate, United States Marine Corps should not be relied upon to assume that these statements reflect the policy of these organizations.


You can still file an answer, late the plaintiff may not have asked for a default judgment yet and if they did you may get an attorney and have the judgment set aside if you have a valid defense.
Good Luck


Unless there has been a default judgment entered more than 14 days ago, it may not be too late. You can file an answer to the statement of claim and then the judge will set it for trial.

If there has been a default judgment, you need to move quickly to ask the court to set aside the default judgment and show that you have a good defense.

If this is a lawsuit by a debt buyer or debt collector, you might want to read our Frequently Asked Questions about these types of lawsuits here -

Best wishes.

John Watts