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Can I Vacate A Default Judgment In New York?

Have you ever been driving along, minding your own business, when suddenly blue and red lights begin to flash in your rearview mirror? The feeling in the pit of your stomach when that occurs is not unlike the feeling inspired by receiving a notice that you're being sued. Under both circumstances, your body understands that some kind of threat has been initiated, and it tells you to fight, flee, or freeze.

While the instinct to freeze is probably the most advisable instinct to have when you’ve been pulled over by an officer of the law, it isn’t the best instinct to indulge if you’re being sued. If you freeze or flee after a creditor, debt collector, or collection agency has sued you, the court will enter a default judgment in that party’s favor. When possible, it’s a far better idea to enlist the services of a consumer advocate attorney so that you can fight the legal action that has been taken against you. A skilled lawyer may even be able to settle an overdue account in your favor.

Don't lose hope if a default judgment has already been entered against you. There are circumstances under which an attorney can help you to vacate a default judgment that has been entered against you in New York.

What Is A Default Judgment?

When a borrower is sued by a creditor or collection agency, that borrower is empowered to defend against the lawsuit in question. If the borrower doesn’t show up to their case hearing and doesn’t otherwise present a defense on their behalf, the creditor or collection agency will win their case by default. The court’s acknowledgment of this win takes the form of a default judgment.

Once a default judgment has been entered, the winning party can pursue collection action against the losing party. For example, a creditor can seek to garnish a borrower’s wages or to pursue a seizure of funds from the borrower’s bank account until the creditor has been repaid the amount owed per the terms of the default judgment.

By fighting back against any lawsuit that has been filed against you, you and your attorney can pursue remedies to the outstanding account in question that won’t result in garnishment of your wages or seizure of your property. With that said, sometimes a default judgment can’t be helped. If a borrower hasn’t been given proper notice of a lawsuit against them, they will not be aware that they need to mount a defense in the first place.

How Do You Know If A Default Judgment Has Been Entered Against You?

If you weren’t properly notified of the lawsuit – or somehow missed that notification due to an unexpected move, medical emergency, etc. – there are a number of ways that you can learn about whether a default judgment has been entered against you. Ideally, you’ll be mailed a copy of the judgment. But, if you don’t receive that notice either, you may learn about a default judgment when an entry shows up on your credit report, you realize that your wages are being garnished, a lien has been placed on your property, funds from your bank account have been seized, or your bank account has been frozen.

Can A Default Judgment Be Vacated In New York?

If you've discovered that a default judgment has been entered against you, you may be feeling the urge to panic. Rest assured, there are circumstances under which an attorney may be able to help you vacate this default judgment. A lawyer can help you to craft a formal request to vacate the judgment. If this request is granted, you'll be granted a new hearing date, and your case will be officially reopened.

Taking this step is important, as it will allow you to defend yourself against the lawsuit. Even if you do owe the creditor, debt collector, or collection agency that filed the lawsuit money, you may be able to secure a far more favorable outcome by responding directly to the lawsuit than you would by accepting the terms of the default judgment.

Vacating Your Default Judgment

There are two primary reasons that a court will grant a request to vacate a default judgment. First, a court may honor an excusable default. Essentially, an excusable default is a solid reason why you either didn’t answer or show up to defend against the lawsuit or a solid reason why the creditor in your case shouldn’t win (such as a violation of the statute of limitations in the case or a case of identity theft that absolves you from responsibility for the debt).

For example, if you went into early labor on the day of your hearing, that would serve as a solid reason why you couldn’t attend it. Similarly, if you never received a summons in your case or you were incorrectly informed by a lawyer that you didn’t have to attend your hearing, you may have a sincerely good reason for not defending against your lawsuit.

If you received notice that you were being sued but could not defend your case for an objectively good reason – excusable default – you have one year to request that the court vacate the default judgment entered against you.

If you never received a notice of the lawsuit, you can make this request once you've learned that a default judgment has been entered, even if you don't learn about this turn of events until more than one year has passed. This is the second reason that a court will vacate a default judgment: bad service. You can't be expected to defend against a lawsuit you know of. If you weren't properly served notice of the lawsuit, a court can't render a judgment against you. As a result, the courts are empowered to vacate any judgments rendered in the wake of bad service.

Speak With A Respected New York Debt Relief Lawyer To Learn More About Your Rights

Whether you’re hoping to avoid a default judgment or you need to vacate a default judgment that has already been entered against you, we’re here to help. the Law Office of Simon Goldenberg, PLLC, has extensive experience representing the rights of individuals in default judgment matters, and we offer free case evaluations to discuss such circumstances. Schedule your free consultation by calling 888-301-0584 or contacting us online. We look forward to speaking with you.