I have a rather large outstanding balance on several credit cards, and at this point there is now way I can make the monthly payment consistently. If I don't pay the debt can I be sued?
There is both secured and unsecured debt. Secured debt, such as a mortgage or car loan, is backed by collateral. This means that if the person doesn't make payments and defaults, then the creditor can take the collateral to pay off the debt. However, with unsecured debt, there is no collateral to take. Instead, unsecured credit is based on the person's pledge to pay the debt and his credit rating. Yet just because a person fails to pay on an unsecured debt and there's no collateral to take doesn't mean that the person is free and clear. In fact, the person can be sued civilly for unsecured debt.
To sue for this, a creditor, which could be a credit card company or a person who is owed money, can file a lawsuit in the creditor's local county. Once the lawsuit is filed, the debtor—known as the defendant—must file a written answer for the lawsuit to go to trial. If the debtor doesn't, then the judge automatically grants the plaintiff (company or person suing) with a judgment. However, if the person writes a written answer and the case goes to trial, both parties must plead their cases to a judge. If the judge finds that the person doesn't owe the unsecured debt, then he won't owe it. Alternatively, the judge can rule in the favor of the plaintiff, which means the person owes the money.
A person who is facing a lawsuit or wage garnishment because of unsecured debt should talk with a lawyer who can help him.