Debt Defense – How NOT to Defend Yourself from the Debt Collectors

Debt defense is a learning process, but it requires effort. And if you are looking for help, common sense is helpful. I received the following email from a person with whom I had never spoken before:


Our court trial date is [a date 5 days from the date of email] in [City], California.

We have been sued by Midland Funding LLC. We filed a general denial claim last year.

The 17th of May, fed ex delivered a package from [the debt collector plaintiff] which had a Declaration In
Lieu of Testimony in it.

First of all, in court will I be allowed to read my research?

Second, we have not received notification … like they claim and when we were served last year, I called them and tried to take care of the debt but they kept putting me off.  No one wanted to talk to me about it.  I called them many times and each time they would tell me to call another time.

Third, …

Next, …

Next, …

There are quite a few things that I have questions about.

I cannot afford an attorney or I would let one take care of this for me.

Can you give me any advice?

The above letter, which has been changed to protect identities, was actually sent to me. While I sympathize with the person sending it, it reveals many things you will want to avoid if you hope to win a lawsuit against a debt collector.

You Can’t Waste Vast Amounts of Time

First let me point out that this letter was sent on Friday night, six days before the date apparently set for trial. The lawsuit was filed last year, and this person received pretrial materials a month ago. You MUST NOT WAIT so long before taking action to protect yourself. The letter asks numerous significant questions – some of them good questions, incidentally – and the writer seems to think the answers will enable her to defend herself.

Debt Defense is a Process, not Magic Words or Questions

Debt defense is a process. As I have often explained, you want to get started early, so that the debt collector has plenty of opportunity to give up. Also, it takes time to ask for and get the facts you need, more to understand them, and yet more to make sure you can get the judge to understand. You can’t treat questions as a magical way to win the suit. Facts win suits, and you must do the work to show what the facts are.

It also takes time to learn the law and become familiar enough with it to use it.

This person wasted a solid year before looking for the easiest way out a few days before trial. At this stage, one might be able to get lucky. The debt collector might forget part of its case, might have weaknesses in it that one could show the judge and get him or her to understand. But more likely that the debt collector will be able to gloss over the weaknesses of the case, and the person sued will not have time to understand what’s happening or how to show what needs to be shown.

You can’t wait so long.

You Need to Understand, Not Get a List of Questions to Ask

One of the reasons you need to give yourself time for your case is that lawsuits and courts are different – they have different rules, different cases and precedents, and even different laws. You need to figure these out and learn how to apply them to your own case. Then, you must prepare for the things the debt collector is going to say to try to convince the judge to do something you don’t think he or she should. From the outside, court seems to go slowly. If you’re in it, it goes really fast, and it’s hard to know what to say. It’s hard to keep your head when things come up suddenly under pressure. The only way you can count on getting things right is to work on them before you’re in court.

If You’re Going to Ask for Help…

If you’re going to ask for help, you should carefully consider the situation of the person you’re asking.  You should be polite, and that would include addressing the person by name, using the word “please,” and other basic considerations. Sending a lengthy series of questions with a subject line “Need Answers…” is not considerate; doing it on Friday night with a deadline a few days later imposes too much.

Beyond that, though, is the whole question of what the person is doing. When I get a question, I’m usually willing to offer some help. If you have a lengthy series of questions that will take a considerable amount of time to address? That’s what our membership is for.