How to Answer a Lawsuit in Texas
Deny the Plaintiffs Claims
Answering a Lawsuit in Texas is relatively simple. The answer is a denial of the lawsuit, often called a “General Denial” The most common mistakes consumers make is by admitting just about everything the answer. Please don’t say “I know I owe this debt, I just need some time to come up with some money”. By saying this, you haven’t denied anything and the creditor will most likely obtain a default judgment against you. Instead say something like “I deny all allegations of the Plaintiff and demand strict proof thereof”.
List your Defenses
Some defenses need to be specifically plead by you in your answer. For instance, if you believe that your last payment on the debt was more than four years ago, then you want to plead the statute of limitations. To do this, you should have a section for “Affirmative Defenses” and say that the statute of limitations has expired. Similarly, if you paid the debt already, you have to specifically plead that you paid the debt because “payment” is an affirmative defense that must be proved by you. Respond to any Discovery in the Petition
Sometimes the Plaintiff will embed a “request for admissions” in the lawsuit. This is usually a self-serving list of questions like 1) admit you owe the debt, 2) admit you have no defense, etc. You must respond to these list of questions and specifically deny them or you will automatically admit them. This is a huge trap for consumers. Your “general denial” does not deny the admissions. Fortunately, in Texas Justice Courts, admissions in the petition are no longer allowed without Court approval but you should still look for them and ensure you respond.
Sign the Response
If you do not sign your answer, the Court may reject it. Sign your answer with your written signature. Ensure that you actually sign it and file an original with the Court, not a copy.
File it by the Deadline
The deadline to file an answer depends on what type of Court you are in. Usually debt lawsuits are filed in Justice Courts in Texas. The new deadline in Justice Court is 14 days from the day you were served. Thus, take the day you were served and count off 14 days, THEN go to the next Monday. The deadline is always on a Monday after the expiration of 14 days. If Monday is a holiday then it is due Tuesday. If you are in County or District Court, the deadline is the Monday after the expiration of 20 days. You might as well go to the Court and file it, or you can mail it but consider sending it via certified mail. You do not have to physically go to Court to “answer” the lawsuit, it can be mailed.
Send a Copy to the Plaintiff
Many consumers miss this part. They forget to send a copy to the Plaintiff and then the Plaintiff files a motion for default judgment because they don’t know an answer has been filed. Sometimes the Court will grant the default judgment if they cannot find your answer so to avoid this problem, be sure to mail or fax a copy of your