How do I respond to a lawsuit for unpaid credit card debt?

I have an unpaid debt of approximately $2800. I wasn’t able to pay it at first because of unemployment. Then dealing with an unexpected medical diagnosis for my mother (brain tumor) which created a stressful time during my pregnancy. I am currently receiving government aid for food to care for my child and receiving some money for caring for my mother through in-home support services but I need that to pay for a larger loan that has a lien on my vehicle which is my only means of transportation. What would the consequences be if I don’t respond and the court awards judgment to the plaintiff?

Asked on August 30, 2011 California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If you don't respond, then the plaintiff will win by default. That  will give plaintiff a judgment in its favor for the full amount of the debt it claims. At that point, if you do not pay, it may be able to try some other means of recovering the money, which, however, you may still be exempt from. For example, many forms of public assistance cannot be garnished the way wage income can; it could try to put a lien on or execute against your vehicle, but if the car is financed, and therefore there is already a secured loan on the car, it is not likely to get the credit card creditor anything--the secured debt will take priority. If you have nothing at all, it is hard to collect from you. You still may wish to at least contact the creditor and see if maybe you could settle the debt for some reduced amount that you could pay (if there is any such amount), so as to not have a judgment against you--the judgment will remain in effect for year, so if at any time you become implied, come into money or property, etc., the creditor could then try to collect.

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