A Check List for Answering a Debt Collection Lawsuit in New York Pro Se

By: Robert J. Nahoum

A man in suit and tie with his arms crossed.


You’ve come home to find legal papers taped to your door.  A closer look reveals that the legal papers are a debt collection summons and complaint – you are being sued you for an old debt.   A summons and complaint in a debt collection lawsuit must be answered and never ignored or risk the certainty of a default judgment, wage garnishment and frozen bank accounts.

Here is a checklist of steps to take when preparing and filing your answer:

□   Get the caption correct:

The caption is the top section of court papers that lists the name of the court, the names of the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s) and the index number.  If you get the caption wrong, you run the risk of the paper not getting into your file and your answer not counting.

□   Answer for yourself:

Let’s say your mother is the one who was sued.  Make sure that the answer states that it is her answering the complaint and not you on her behalf.

□   Answer each paragraph:

Allegations in the complaint are usually separated into individual paragraphs.  Make sure you answer each of those paragraphs.  You basically have three potential answers:

(1) “Admittedâ€

(2) “Deniedâ€; or

(3) Lack knowledge or information sufficient to admit or deny.

□   State your defenses:

A defense is an explanation of why the debt collector is wrong and should lose the lawsuit.  If you don’t state a defense in your answer, you may be waiving your right to rely on it later.

□   Sign and date your answer:

After you have responded to each paragraph of the complaint and stated your defenses, be sure to date and sign your answer.

□   Make Copies:

Make and keep a few copies of your answer so you will always have a record of what you said.

□   Serve your answer:

To be effective, your answer has to be served on the attorneys for the debt collector.  Send it by certified mail return receipt requested so that you will have proof that it was served.

□   File your answer:

File your answer with the court along with a copy of the certified mail receipt as proof that you served it.  You can file your answer by mail.  However, to be sure it gets to the court and makes its way to your court file, it is a good idea to hand-deliver it to the court.

There is one way to guarantee that you lose a debt collection lawsuit and that the debt collector wins, that’s by not answering.  By simply following this checklist, you increase your odds of winning the lawsuit from 0% to something greater.

If you need help settling or defending a debt collection law suit, stopping harassing debt collectors or suing a debt collector, contact us today to see what we can do for you.

The Law Offices of Robert J. Nahoum, P.C
(845) 232-0202