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If you have fallen behind on your debt payments, you might be worried that someone will file a lawsuit against you. But is it possible to not know that the court issued a judgment without your knowledge? Technically, the court cannot file a judgment against you if you are unaware of the lawsuit. However, there is an extremely unlikely chance of this potentially accidentally happening. To learn more about what this might look like, and what to do if this happens to you, keep reading!

What Does It Mean That There Is A Judgment Against Me?

When the court issues a judgment against you, it means that whoever filed a lawsuit against you has won the lawsuit. Oftentimes, this means the court authorized your creditor or debt collector to garnish your wages, levy your bank account, or put a lien on your property. 

Ultimately, a judgment is a tool that creditors and debt collectors can use to better collect on the debt that you owe. If a judgment has been made against you, your options dwindle. Make sure you try to take care of your debt before it gets to that point. 

Why Would The Court Make A Judgment Against Me?

There are a couple of reasons why the court might make a judgment against you. Let’s take a look at them:

  1. You didn’t respond to the lawsuit. If you received the lawsuit and didn’t send in an answer, the court can move on with the case without you. When you are served, you will have a set amount of time to send in an answer. Depending on where you live, it can be between 15-45 days. 30 days is most typical. If you fail to respond in the allotted time, it is likely that you will automatically lose the case. Because of this, it is always important to respond. 
  2. The debt is proven to be yours. If you do answer the lawsuit, the case will move forward. The court will set a date for you and your creditor to meet. A judge will then determine the proper course of action. Again, this typically means wage garnishment, bank levies, and property liens. Normally these will go away once your debt is repaid. 

However, you can’t do either of these things without first being informed of the lawsuit. But will you actually be told about the lawsuit in advance? Keep reading to find out.

Will I Be Told If Someone Files A Lawsuit Against Me?

By law, you have to be notified that someone filed a lawsuit against you. Despite this, there are times when people are not properly notified of their lawsuit. This can be big trouble for you if want or need to defend yourself. Unfortunately, there are a few reasons why you may not ever receive your summons. 

Change Of Address

Most often people don’t receive their summons because they recently changed living addresses. Whenever you applied for your loan or credit card, you provided information, which included your address. If your address has changed since then, you are supposed to update your information. If you were not able to do so prior to the lawsuit, then the summons was likely sent to the wrong residence. 

“Sewer” Service

Another reason you might not have received your lawsuit is if the servers are not thorough in ensuring you received your summons. This is often referred to as “sewer” service. This can also refer to an instance where someone intentionally did a poor job delivering the summons so that you would not know about the lawsuit. While unfortunate and unlawful, it can definitely be done. 

Lost In The Mail

In some states, the court can send a summons through the mail. While not as malicious as sewer service, this can also result in a lost summons. Because the summons is not directly transported by the court or put in the hands of the debtor, there is plenty of room for error. Unfortunately, if your summons gets lost in the mail or delivered to the wrong address, there isn’t much that the court or you can do about it. 

While these are uncommon occurrences, they do happen. And when they do happen, it can be hard for you to recover from the consequences. 

How Can A Judgment Be Made Against Me Without My Knowledge?

So why can the court make a judgment against you without your knowledge? There are a few reasons this could happen. One was mentioned earlier! Here are some of the reasons:

  1. You didn’t respond to the summons. As mentioned earlier, if you deliberately ignore your summons, the court can proceed to submit a judgment without informing you of their decision. You will only find out once the judgment is enacted. 
  2. You never received your summons. While this is not your fault necessarily, it can still lead to some long-lasting consequences. Again, if you never received the summons, there is a chance you don’t even realize you’ve been sued until your wages are garnished or your bank accounts are levied.
  3. You are a victim of identity theft. Unfortunately, another reason you may have a judgment without knowing about a lawsuit is that you are a victim of identity theft. If someone stole your identity and used it to get a loan, you could have a judgment against you without your knowledge. While this is repairable, it is not something you necessarily want to go through. This is just one reason why you should regularly check your credit report to ensure there is nothing suspicious on your record. 

How Can I Know There Has Been A Judgment Against Me?

If you suspect there has been a lawsuit filed against you that you weren’t notified of, or if you are wondering if you already have a judgment against you, there are some places you can check. 

The first, and likely most accurate, place to check is your county courthouse. They should be able to provide you with any answers about what legal processes have occurred without your knowledge. 

There are also a few online databases that might be able to help you figure out if you have a judgment against you. While knowing after the fact might feel “too little too late,” there are still some things you can do to protect yourself after a judgment. If you’d like to talk to someone about your situation and what your next steps should be, give our team at Ascend a call! We love giving unbiased and honest advice to help people reach financial stability. 

Post Author: LincolnE

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