I’m being sued in Oregon, now what?!

At the outset we need to distinguish between “civil” lawsuits and “criminal” lawsuits.  This information pertains to civil lawsuits only and, since we are lawyers who help with debt problems, this is really designed to aid people being sued by a creditor for money.  If you are being charged with a crime (I.e. “State v. YOU”) or are not being sued by a creditor for money, then you probably need a lawyer to review your materials and give you advice.

Once a lawsuit has been served upon you, you have a limited time to respond.  If you do not respond in time then the party suing you will obtain an Order of Default followed by a Judgment. The Order of Default must be signed by the Judge and once entered means you no longer get the opportunity to defend yourself.  In limited circumstances, you may be able to have the Order of Default set aside and regain the ability to defend yourself. After the Order of Default is entered the party suing you will submit a Judgment to be signed by the Judge. That Judgment ends the lawsuit and, if won by default, generally gives the party suing you what they asked for.  In even more limited circumstances, it may be possible to have a Judgment set aside so you can have your day in Court.

Even if you know you owe the money to this creditor who is suing you, you should still do something.  Pick up the phone and call the party suing you. If you can come up with a lump sum of money, then ask if they will settle the debt at a discount.  Most creditors suing for money would rather have a discounted guarantee now as opposed to a promise of future payments. If they agree then you want them to promise to “dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice.” A dismissal with prejudice means they can never sue you again for that reason.  A dismissal without prejudice means you might hear from them in the future.

If you cannot afford a lump sum to settle, then ask them if you can set up a payment plan.  Most creditors would prefer voluntary payments as opposed to coerced payments through garnishment.  In return for your voluntary payments you want them to agree to leave you alone and not to garnish your wages or bank accounts.  A promise to leave you alone is called a “Covenant not to Execute.” The party suing you will likely want a “Stipulated Judgment” or a “Confession of Judgment” to be signed by you.  Those documents give the other side leverage to take money away from you if you fail to make the payments you promise. These are all fairly technical documents and you should really consider hiring a lawyer.  Even if you cannot afford a full legal defense to the lawsuit, some lawyers (like us!) will charge a reduced fee to help settle a debt and protect your interests.

If you cannot afford any payments, then you probably should at least consider bankruptcy as the best of bad options.

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