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Advice on being sued while deployed overseas

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Mark Cappel
UpdatedMay 28, 2024

How can I find out information about old debt without contacting the creditor?

While I was deployed in Iraq my mother said she got a letter in the mail from some lawyer, she said she did not open it but she said she could see through the envelope that it said I owed money. She said she sent it back as addressee does not live here, I am scared that this might be a summons to court for some old debt that I am disputing how can I found out without contacting the creditors, I sent the creditors a letter informing them that I dispute debts and that I researched the Statute Of limitations and they have expired. Scared this might be a letter for court, I have not received anything else at my address.

In most states, a creditor attempting to file a lawsuit against you is required to have you personally served with a copy of the summons and complaint, meaning that a process server or sheriff's deputy would knock on your door and hand you or someone you live with a copy of the summons. If the process server cannot locate the defendant (you) to complete service of process, the creditor will usually mail a copy of the summons to your last known address via certified mail. Simply mailing someone a letter stating that they are being sued is generally not considered adequate notification, so if your mother only received is a letter addressed to you, I seriously doubt that a lawsuit has been filed against you. However, if you are worried that you have been sued, you can check with your county court clerk's office to find out if there are any pending cases listing you as a defendant. Many courts provide a searchable online database of their records, so you may be able to find out if you have been sued simply by visiting your county court's website. If your court does not provide court records online, you should be able to call or visit the court clerk's office to inquire about any lawsuits filed against you. As I mentioned previously, I doubt that you have been sued, but it certainly will not hurt to double check, especially since you have been out of the country for some time.

If the statute of limitations for filing suit on this account has passed, it is unlikely that the creditor will attempt to file a lawsuit against you. While creditors can file lawsuits on accounts with expired statutes of limitations, the defendant would usually only need to file a response with the court explaining that the statute of limitations has expired; generally speaking, the court will dismiss the lawsuit if the statute has indeed expired. Creditors usually do not file lawsuits on accounts which are out of statute, because if the court believes that a creditor filed suit despite knowing that it was time-barred from doing so, the creditor could face sanctions from the court. To read more about statute of limitations, and to find out the statute of limitations in your state for credit cards (aka "open accounts") and other types of debt, you should visit

The fact that you are in active duty military service, and the fact that you were deployed overseas at the time you mother received this letter, also makes me think it unlikely that this creditor has filed a lawsuit against you. Under the provisions of the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the newer Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA), most service members are protected from default judgments being entered against them while they are on active duty and deployed. For more information about these protections for persons serving in the military, I encourage you to visit If you have not already done so, you may want to notify your creditors in writing of your active duty military status, asking that they reduce your interest rates in accordance with the terms of the SCRA. Notifying your creditors will also put your creditors on notice of your military status, which could deter them from taking legal action against you in the future.

For additional information about debt issues, and strategies for dealing with debt, I invite you to visit the Debt Help page.

I wish you the best of luck in resolving your outstanding debts, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.



Dealing with debt

Mortgages, credit cards, student loans, personal loans, and auto loans are common types of debts. According to the NY Federal Reserve total household debt as of Q1 2024 was $17.69 trillion. Housing debt totaled $12.82 trillion and non-housing debt was $4.88 trillion.

According to data gathered by from a sample of credit reports, about 26% of people in the US have some kind of debt in collections. The median debt in collections is $1,739. Student loans and auto loans are common types of debt. Of people holding student debt, approximately 10% had student loans in collections. The national Auto/Retail debt delinquency rate was 4%.

The amount of debt and debt in collections vary by state. For example, in Kansas, 26% have any kind of debt in collections and the median debt in collections is $1652. Medical debt is common and 17% have that in collections. The median medical debt in collections is $849.

Avoiding collections isn’t always possible. A sudden loss of employment, death in the family, or sickness can lead to financial hardship. Fortunately, there are many ways to deal with debt including an aggressive payment plan, debt consolidation loan, or a negotiated settlement.