You are a person who can’t pay your bills.  One day, a disheveled guy comes to your door, asks whether you answer to your name, and when you say “yes,” he hands you a summons in a state-court lawsuit seeking a money judgment for an unpaid debt.

Once you get the summons, you have 30 days to answer it.  You’re not going to answer, because it will cost you $400 to do so and you don’t really have a defense; you owe this money, you just can’t pay it.

If you don’t answer in 30 days, then the attorneys may file a request for a default judgment.  That usually takes about a month to get.

After they have the default judgment, they may take collection action.  That includes placing a lien on your house, garnishing wages, levying accounts, and dragging you down to their office for deposition to find out your social security number and your intimate financial details.

A bankruptcy filing will stop this process at whatever stage it has gotten to.  You won’t be able to recover money already levied or garnished, but you will be able to set aside a lien.