In cases of non-payment of your dues over a period of time, you can expect a debt collection lawsuit imposed on you. But did you know these lawsuits are more common than you think? According to reports from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, more than 70 million Americans have been contacted by debt collectors and 25% of these consumers have felt threatened during the process. What most people do not understand is that even in the light of a debt collection lawsuit, there are consumer rights that cannot be undermined. Read on to find out from Shamis & Gentile P.A. on how to handle a debt collection lawsuit.
Challenge the lawsuit
Debt collection lawsuits are generally imposed by third-party debt collection agencies that have been brought on board by the original creditors after a period of default on the consumer’s end. There are several ways to challenge the debt collection lawsuit:
- The lawsuit can be challenged if the papers have been served to the wrong individuals. This is quite common, especially between people who have similar-sounding names or in cases of multiple generations in one family with the same first name.
- Quite often, the debt collection agency may not have updated payment records. In such cases, a consumer may be sued even after they have paid their dues. The lawsuit can be challenged in such a situation.
- The lawsuit can also be challenged effectively if the amount due is incorrect in the records.
- Finally, the lawsuit can be challenged if the statute of limitations, i.e., the period of time when the agency can legally collect the debt, has passed. It can range from three to 20 years as it depends on the type of debt as well as the state you reside in.
Decide whether to accept the judgment
Once the lawsuit has been filed, there are several ways to move forward. Shamis & Gentile P.A., outlines the following scenarios:
- If a consumer decides to accept the lawsuit and judgment, hiring an attorney is the best way forward.
- In cases where consumers accept the judgment but do not want to participate in court proceedings, an out-of-court settlement is a viable option.
- If you have limited finances or assets, you can check to determine if you are ‘judgment-proof’ in which case your finances will not be used.
- Finally, there is the option to file for bankruptcy if the debt amount is significantly large without any means to pay it back.
Don’t act impulsively
Phones calls or messages from debt collection agencies can be a harrowing experience. However, if you receive a phone call asking you to pay off your debt immediately, take a step back, breathe and count till 10. You have the right to ask for proof of the lawsuit in writing before taking any steps. Remember, all legitimate lawsuits will provide you with a certain period of time to verify the legality and accuracy of the lawsuit.
Shamis & Gentile P.A. provide you with the following warning signs that you could have been contacted by a scammer:
- If the summons has been sent by email.
- If the sender of the summons uses general domain accounts (@gmail.com, @yahoo.com).
- Unbelievable claims or threats such as the possibility of arrest by the police if the debt is not paid in a day.
- If the debt collector asks you to pay through non-traditional means such as wire transfer or prepaid credit card.
If you are a consumer who is in debt and has been served with a debt collection lawsuit, do not worry. Contact Shamis & Gentile P.A., for a free consultation today.