Loaning money to an individual is always risky. No matter how careful you are about who you loan to or how sincere the individual may be about wanting to pay you back, circumstances beyond his control may result in the debt going unpaid. Should this happen to you, you have the right to legal recourse. By taking the debtor to court, you can attempt to obtain a court judgment that forces him to pay you what he owes.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Proof of the debt
Verify that the debt collection statute of limitations has not expired in the debtor's state. If the statute of limitations on the debt has expired and the debtor is aware of it, she may contest your lawsuit and have it thrown out of court.
Notify the individual in writing that he is late repaying what he owes and that if a prompt payment is not received, you intend to take legal action. The court will want to see that the debtor was properly notified of the debt and given plenty of time to repay it.
Compile any documentation you have proving that the individual owes you the money. A written and signed loan agreement, along with proof of previous payments, will help you prove your case in court.
Contact the courthouse in the debtor's county. Find out what the small claims court limitations are for that district. If the debt is higher than the small claims court limitations, you must file a civil lawsuit.
Decide how much you want to sue the debtor for. You can add late fees, court costs and attorney fees to the original unpaid debt.
File a "Statement of Claim" at the county courthouse. You must provide the details of the lawsuit, how much you are suing for and attach copies of any documents that prove the debt is valid.
Request a "Notice to Appear" form. Attach the form to a copy of your "Statement of Claim" and send the documents to the debtor via registered mail. You may also request that the Sheriff's office serve the debtor the papers in person. In some districts, the court will do this for you for a fee.
Attend the pretrial hearing. Bring all your supporting documentation and arrive on time. Should the debtor not appear at the hearing, or appear without a valid defence, a judgment may be immediately entered in your favour. If the debtor admits owing the debt, you may negotiate a settlement or the judge may send the case to mediation.
Attend the trial if mediation is unsuccessful. You must bring all your supporting documentation and both you and the debtor must state your case to the judge. After the trial, the judge will make a decision on the case.
Tips and warnings
- If the debtor lives far away and filing a lawsuit against him in his county is difficult, you may also file a lawsuit in the county where the original debt was incurred.
- If you win your case, the court may garnish the debtor's bank accounts and wages to help you collect the debt. This depends, however, on the garnishment laws in the debtor's state of residence.
- You don't have to have an attorney to file a lawsuit.
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