My Debt Collection Rights is a new toolkit by Texas Appleseed. It helps inform Texans of their rights, help people learn more about debt collection, and help Texans spot scams and other deceptive practices. The toolkit encompasses “guidebooks” covering four areas: tips to determine if a debt collection call is real or a scam, common scare tactics used by debt collectors, what to do if you’re sued by a debt collector, and what it means to be judgment proof. Other key resources include four informational videos, which feature actual experiences of two Texans, and a form Texans can use to respond to a lawsuit. Texas Appleseed has also collaborated with SMU’s Dedman School of Law and Fish & Richardson on a related tool that will be housed on My Debt Collection Rights. If a debt collector has filed a lawsuit in court, then Texans should be sure to "answer" by filing a written Answer with the court before the deadline. The new Answer Writer Tool asks a series of questions that are then used to create a custom Answer for that person, which can then be provided to the court.
In justice courts, judges are not necessarily lawyers, and the rules of evidence may not apply. Most debt collectors have lawyers representing them; defendants in debt claim cases often do not have the benefit of a lawyer. Many Texans fall into a “justice gap” where they are not poor enough to qualify for free legal services, but also cannot afford to pay for legal services on their own. Because more and more Texans are trapped in this situation, many litigants are left arguing their cases on their own or “pro se,” without the help of a skilled advocate. Key Findings: 1: Court website information is more helpful to plaintiffs than to defendants. 2: Most courts provide plaintiffs with forms to file debt claim cases. 3: No court provided defendants with answer forms specific to debt claim cases. 4: Links to applicable rules of civil procedure are available on most, but not all court websites.
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