The King County (WA) Law Library has an excellent: Debt Collection Lawsuit Research Guide. The state law links are to Washington State laws, but the other information and federal law links apply to everyone. There is also a podcast with additional information on this subject.
Excerpt from the research guide: “What is a Debt Collection Lawsuit?
A debt is a sum of money owed by one person to another. A lawsuit is a legal action by one person or entity against another person or entity, which is decided in a court of law. A debt collection lawsuit is started in a court by a “cause of action” as the particular amount of money owed. The person or entity starting the lawsuit is the plaintiff. (Definition from: http://dictionary.law.com/).
A debt collection lawsuit is initiated when a summons (notice that a lawsuit has been filed and an explanation of how to respond) and complaint (initial request or plea to a court in a civil matter) are filed in a court. The summons and complaint are served (that is, delivered) to the defendant (person who is being sued)….” (link to full research guide)
Visit the King County Law Library Blog, KCLL Klues.