If a creditor is suing you, they must notify you of the suit by serving you with papers either by using a court process server, your local sheriff's department, or through certified mail. Refusing to sign for certified mail delivered to your home or pick up certified mail at your local post office does not mean that the creditor suing you will withdraw the lawsuit.
All creditors must properly serve you with lawsuit paperwork before the lawsuit can move forward. If the creditor has attempted to serve you with papers multiple times, either through process server, sheriff's department, or certified mail without success, the creditor can request the court to approve an alternative form of service. This usually means the creditor will send you the lawsuit papers through the regular mail.
Once the creditor sends your lawsuit papers in the regular mail, your time to answer the suit begins. Time frames for answering lawsuits vary by state law and can range from a couple of weeks to around 30 days. Answering the lawsuit is important in cases where the statute of limitations has past on the debt or if the debt does not legally belong to you, such as in a case of identity theft.
If you never pick up your lawsuit paper work from the post office, you will not know the date and time you are supposed to appear in court. Creditor lawsuits are civil proceedings. If you don't appear in court, a warrant will not be issued for your arrest as it would in a criminal proceeding. However, the judge will issue what is referred to as a default judgment, in favor of the creditor. Once the judgment is entered into public record, the creditor has the right to garnish your wages.
If you are avoiding picking up the certified mail because you cannot afford to pay off your debt and you feel as though there is not point, you may want to reconsider. If you cannot afford your credit card payments due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a job loss, drop in income or an illness, you can answer the lawsuit within the given period explaining your circumstances. Once the creditor receives your answer, it may be willing to work out affordable payment arrangements with you. You should know however, that the creditor is not obligated to do so.