Introduction to Summons and Complaint (not claim and delivery)
If the lawsuit papers you were given are called "SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT" the creditor is only seeking a judgment for the amount due, not for a pick up order of your property (for this see the classroom entitled Debt Collection Defense in S.C. (Claim and Delivery).
You must file an Answer to the Complaint. If you don't answer a summary court Summons and Complaint within 30 days, the creditor can get a judgment against you without a further hearing.
What is an Answer?
An Answer does exactly what it says it does - it allows you to answer the Complaint, and explain reasons why the creditor should not get a judgment against you. Some examples of reasons the creditor shouldn't get a judgment are 1) because you don't owe the money, 2) the creditor hasn't given an accounting of what they say you owe, 3) the creditor didn't handle your account properly. Once you have received the Complaint, YOU MUST FILE AN ANSWER TO THE COMPLAINT RIGHT AWAY.
If you answer the lawsuit and come to a hearing when the court schedules it, the creditor might not be able to get a judgment against you. There are a couple of reasons for this.
1. The creditor must have a live witness to testify about the debt they say you owe. The witness cannot be their lawyer and must be an employee of the company who has knowledge about your account.
2. The creditor must provide a detailed accounting of what you borrowed, what you paid and what they say you now owe. They should have accounting documents to back this up.
At your hearing
Don't agree to make payments at the outset. Before your hearing starts, the judge may ask if you have worked out a payment plan. This means the judge assumes that you owe the money and the creditor can prove it. However, you are allowed to tell the judge that you want to hear the plaintiff's witness and proof before any discussion of settlement or payment arrangements. It is best to require the creditor to establish the amount owed before agreeing to any payment. This is especially true if you don't have the money to make payments.
After your hearing
Don't agree to make payments after the hearing. If the judge rules against you and grants a judgment to the creditor, you are not required to pay the judgment on the spot or even make arrangements to pay it. Sometimes the judge or creditor will suggest that you do this before the judgment becomes final. However, you need to have a final judgment amount before agreeing to make payments and you need to know if you can afford it. You should not agree to payments that you won't be able to make. That's what got you in this situation to begin with.
What can happen if you don't agree to pay a judgment
1. The creditor can get a judgment for the past due amount and the filing fee they paid ( $80 as of January 1, 2019).
2. The creditor is not asking the judge to give them your household property (as in a claim and delivery case).
3. The creditor is only asking for a judgment against you for the amount due on the loan.
4. If the creditor gets a judgment, that does not mean it has to be paid to them immediately. You can pay it voluntarily or make a payment arrangement. But, you don't have to.
5. If you don't pay the judgment or agree to a payment plan, the creditor must go through a separate judgment collection procedure.
6. During the judgment collection process, you may find that most if not all of your property and income cannot be taken for payment on the judgment. In that case, you should make sure to use your resources to cover your basic living expenses and not use them to pay on a judgment.