If you have the money, try to settle before the matter goes to court. Be advised that attempting a settlement prior to court with the other side's attorney is a VERY tricky thing to do, so be careful. Your best chance of settling is when you have a lump sum to pay the settlement all at once. Be sure to get a written settlement agreement from the PRIOR to making any payments. NEVER accept settlement terms over the phone without a written agreement. Don't make the mistake of cutting a "good faith" payment to their attorneys without any sort of written agreement that they'll cease legal action...If you do this they'll simply take your money and sue you anyway.
If you can only pay them a settlement in installments per month then it gets more complicated. The problem is that they will invariably want you to sign away your legal rights for any settlement agreement by signing a document that authorizes an instant judgement. DO NOT sign such an agreement or any agreement that waives your legal rights. NEVER, EVER trust any “advise” they give you, regardless of how “nice” they might seem on the phone. Remember, the are 100% against you best interests. Accepting advise from them on what to do is like Tweety Bird accepting advise from Sylvester the Cat. If you cannot reach a settlement prior to court, then do this: Send the attorney and the court a letter via Certified Mail with Return Receipt (NOT regular mail) stating:
Notice of Intent to Defend
I cannot officially respond to your claim until validation is made for the alleged debt. I am officially requesting validation of your claim, to include (this info will be requested at the court hearing):
- A copy of the original application with my signature for this alleged debt
- How much was this debt purchased for?
- Provide a fully itemized statement for the amount you are asking which clearly details how this amount over the amount that was paid for this debt was calculated, including the interest rate being charged. Confirm that this rate falls within state usury limits
This letter has been mailed via Certified Mail with Return Receipt. Receipt of this letter is being officially time stamped.
Fill out the response to the court the best that you can. If you are asked if you Affirm or Deny the claim, mark "Deny" and mail that along with the above letter stating that you cannot affirm or deny the claim until the claim has been validated. Also mail this via Certified Mail with Return Receipt
On the court date, DO NOT be a no-show under any circumstances whatsoever. People often make the HUGE mistake of not showing up because they think they’d loose anyway or because they can’t afford an attorney. Not showing up is the worst thing you can possibly do. Even if you are frightened....or you're sick with a 102 degree fever...or if you think that you'd loose, show up anyway! If you don't, the other side will get a default judgement and they will get this on THEIR terms. They will tack on all sorts of add-on fees and the amount of the judgment could end up being two or three times the actual amount of the debt. Even worse, the court could authorize maximum wage garnishment if you don’t show up to make your case to the judge, which can be as high as 25% of your wages. IMPORTANT: bring complete documentation of your income and living expenses: Pay stubs and copies of bills. Even if you loose, you can use this to negotiate much more favorable repayment terms.