A Lawsuit in Hernando County commences with the filing of a Complaint in the Hernando County Courthouse or the Circuit Court with jurisdiction over Hernando County. A Complaint is a document where the Plaintiff, or the party bringing the Lawsuit, states the basis for the Lawsuit.
After the Complaint is filed, the Clerk of Court issues a Summons. The Summons and the Complaint are then delivered to either a County Sheriff or Process Server, who will deliver or Serve the Summons and Complaint to the Defendant, or the person being sued in the Lawsuit.
If the Process Server is unable to Serve the Summons and Complaint after a reasonable effort, Service may be commenced “constructively”, meaning no actual Service of the legal documents is required.
Sometimes, Service may be invalid if the Process Server delivers the documents in a manner that violates the prescriptions of Florida Law. One example would be if the documents are Served upon a minor child who is present in the home or are Served upon a third party who withheld his or her Consent to accept such Service.
After the Complaint and Summons are Served upon the Defendant, the Defendant generally has twenty (20) days to Answer the Complaint. An Answer is a response to the Complaint, in which the Defendant may offer any Defenses he or she may have to the Lawsuit or Complaint. Absent any Defenses, the Defendant may question other matters contained in the Lawsuit, such as the amount of the claim or monies sought by the Plaintiff.
It is generally recommended that the Defendant file an Answer to the Complaint. If no Answer is filed, the Plaintiff may very quickly seek a Default Judgment, and proceed in its efforts to collect on the matter that is the subject of the Lawsuit. Additionally, filing the Answer places the Defendant in better position if he or she is seeking to Settle the Lawsuit.
If the Lawsuit is of a variety in which the Defendant has Defenses that are meritorious and sustainable in a Court of Law, and the Defendant is committed to the vigorous Defense of the Lawsuit, then the Defendant and Plaintiff may commence a process called Discovery. Discovery entails both the Defendant and the Plaintiff requesting certain documents and information from each other, in the construction of each party’s respective Legal Case. Discovery may also involve Interrogatories and live testimony of relevant parties to the Lawsuit.
Following the process of Discovery, and absent a Settlement between the parties, a Trial may be held in which the Trial Judge, sometimes accompanied by a Jury, will resolve the controversy between the Plaintiff and Defendant.
The process as described above, generally will consume considerable time, not only of the Plaintiff, but also the Defendant, and any Legal Counsel retained or hired by the Defendant. Some cases are easily winnable, such as when a Plaintiff files a Lawsuit significantly past the time allowed by the Statute of Limitations under Florida Law. In such cases, the Defendant may not only seek the Dismissal of the Lawsuit but may also have claims against the Plaintiff under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or the Florida State version, which allows additionally, punitive damages.
However, if the Defendant’s liability is clear, the Defendant may wish to consider other options. One option is to seek the Settlement of the controversy. A Settlement may be formulated in various manners. If you decide to enlist an Attorney in our Law Office to endeavor to Settle with the Plaintiff or Creditor, a Settlement may be either in a one-time payment, monthly payments, or a hybrid in which the Defendant tenders essentially a down payment and then monthly payments thereafter. Each form of Settlement has its advantages and disadvantages. However, the Settlement in which the Defendant pays the least amount of money to the Creditor is generally a Settlement in which a one-time payment is made. Our office will gladly discuss the various Settlement options with you.
Another option entails the filing of a Bankruptcy. There are two forms of Bankruptcy available to the majority of our clients. A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is also called a Debt Consolidation, a Debt Reorganization or a Wages Earners Plan. In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, one may seek to Consolidate most or all of his or her Debts into one monthly payment. The Debt that is the subject of this Lawsuit may generally be reduced dramatically or even forgiven altogether.
Also, in a Chapter 13, one may manage to either pay the true value of certain Secured Debts such as automobile or vehicle loans or refinance such Debts at a greatly reduced interest rate. Either option may dramatically reduce not only monthly automobile or vehicle payments but also the total monies paid pursuant to the automobile loan.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is also called a Straight Bankruptcy or Straight Liquidation. However, most of our clients who file Chapter 7 manage to retain most or all of their most important assets, including their Homestead, or home, and automobiles. In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, one seeks to Discharge or eliminate Unsecured Debts, including most likely, the Debt that is the subject of most Lawsuits.
In either program, the Bankruptcy may ultimately have beneficial effects upon one’s credit as the program generally dramatically improves one’s Debt to Income Ratio. The Debt-to-Income Ratio is simply the proportion of what Debt one is carrying in relation to one’s Income. Because either the Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 will typically improve the Debt-to-Income Ratio, improvements in one’s Credit Score will often be seen within a few months after the filing of either Chapter. Combined with a vigorous program of Credit Repair, a service also provided by our Office, one may attain a very good Credit Score. Many of our clients purchase a Home within a few years after the filing of a Bankruptcy. Generally, the Fair Housing Authority requires a two year wait before financing a Home after the filing, but other forms of Mortgages can be obtained before such two-year period.
If you have any questions regarding any of your options, please do not hesitate to contact me directly, Toll Free at 1-800-407-3328, or through our website at www.jayweller.com I will speak with you personally and provide a full analysis of your case, along with available solutions. There is no charge or obligation attendant to such consultation.