If you've ever had a collections account, you have probably received letters warning about a potential lawsuit. These can be scary notices to get when you are not prepared to go to court. Furthermore, some debts may be so relatively small you may not know whether you need to hire legal representation. When considering to retain an attorney for a debt collection case, there are some things to think about. Use the following considerations to find out if hiring an attorney is right for you.
Are You Sure You Owe the Debt?
First, you should determine whether you incurred the debt that is the center of the lawsuit. If the debt is fairly recent, you should have no problem remembering whether the amount owed is valid. However, debts that are older may require more research on your part. If you don't immediately recognize the amount, be sure to check your financial records. You may also need to review your credit report for additional information. Remember, a debt isn't invalid just because you don't want to pay for it. You need to be honest during this process to find out where you stand in the lawsuit process.
The Next Steps
Once you receive lawsuit documents regarding a valid debt, you have to figure out what to do next. You actually have a few options in this situation. First, if you believe there is a legal defense to the claim, you can fight the lawsuit in a small claims court, or a civil court. When responding to the lawsuit, you may do so on your own behalf, or get assistance from an experienced attorney. Due to the fact that the creditor or collection agency will have an attorney representing it, you may need to hire a business law attorney who handles debt collection cases.
You also have the option of taking no action at all. If you go down this route, the plaintiff can obtain a default judgment against you. This means that there will be an enforceable judgment that will also show up on your credit report. In some cases, a judgment holder may put a lien on your assets, or garnish your paycheck to recover the money owed. If this is something you definitely want to avoid, you should speak to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.
Defending Your Case
An attorney can assist you in preparing a solid defense against a debt collection claim. Plaintiffs in these matters are required to follow the law just like any other citizen. Thus, legal issues may arise that make it possible for you to successfully defend against this type of lawsuit.
There are several different ways to approach a debt lawsuit from the defense's perspective. First, the statute of limitations should be reviewed. This is a powerful, yet complicated defense to assert. For example, in the state of Utah, a lawsuit for credit card debt must be initiated within four years of the default. However, there are situations that may restart the time clock. This is a very time sensitive defense that often requires expert assistance.
There are many other types of defenses that can be asserted. For one, the creditor may not have sufficient documentation to support its own claim. You may also not recognize the debt at all, and be a victim of identity fraud. Furthermore, the collection agency may have violated state and federal fair debt collection laws: This may provide you with a cognizable counterclaim. Numerous defense strategies may be available depending on the circumstances of the case.
Getting the Right Help
Even a small debt collection lawsuit can quickly turn in to a complex legal matter. Therefore, it is always beneficial to seek advice from an experienced lawyer before proceeding with your case. Remember, all hope is not lost when you are sued on a debt. Get the representation that you need to fight the case, negotiate a settlement or just to understand your legal obligations.
For assistance with small claims or debt collection matters in Utah, contact Spencer and Jensen PLLC. We can help alleviate the stress and confusion you may be experiencing when dealing with these matters.