Credit Card Lawsuits and Debt Defense
Representing clients seeking successful resolution of many Consumer Debt issues, including:
- Credit Card collections
- Medical debt collections
- Apartment lease collections
- Repossession and mortgage deficiency claims
- Garnishment defense & settlement
- Prosecuting federal consumer claims under the FDCPA and FCRA
- Prosecuting Washington Collection Agency Act violations
- Prosecuting Washington Consumer Protection Act violations
- Defense representation in civil lawsuits
It's almost counter-intuitive how some creditors treat a consumer once that person falls behind in making payments. Instead of trying to work with the consumer, the creditor lowers the credit limit, declares a 'default' in the repayment terms, accelerates the debt and begins assessing 'default' interest rates of 30% or more.
Often times, the original creditor has charged off the account and then sold or assigned the debt to a third party junk debt buyer. In other cases, the original creditor may have assigned the debt to a contract collection agency, but takes the account back later and then hires an attorney to sue you over that same debt. In particularly offensive circumstances, the debt may be sold to multiple junk debt buyers, each suing on an account that is past the statute of limitations or has already been settled.
Maybe you've just been served with a summons and complaint from a collections attorney, but it doesn't look like a 'real' lawsuit since there isn't a case number on the documents.
It's real. Under Washington rules of civil procedure, it's perfectly legal to serve a summons and complaint before actually filing the complaint. That may be why your summons does not have a case number on it.
Once you've been served with a summons and complaint, the debt collection attorney can simply wait the statutory 20 day period after the date you were served and then file the complaint - along with a motion and order for default judgment on the very same day. In general, Judges do not review default motions very carefully for 'proof' submitted by the Plaintiff because no answer or appearance has been filed by the Defendant.
Want to handle a debt collection lawsuit by yourself? Just beware of 'free' information available on the Internet. Consumer debtors often make critical mistakes by either ignoring an unfiled summons and complaint after being served or by sending the collector attorney a letter acknowledging that they are responsible for the debt or explaining why they can't pay the debt. Actions taken without the advice of qualified counsel may eliminate many of the consumer's defenses and lead to the Plaintiff's award of summary judgment against the consumer. In many cases, consumers also make fatal mistakes responding to debt collection complaints by relying on 'advice' found on the internet that is outdated, inapplicable to Washington State, false or misleading.
For example, I often get calls from consumers stating that they have read that the statute of limitations on a credit card account in Washington is three years if a written contract isn't produced, which is incorrect. The statute of limitations for collection on a credit card account, treated like an 'implied' written contract, is six years in Washington State. Contractual choice of law provisions can alter that result, but generally not in the consumer's favor.
Respond. Timely. Default judgments should be avoided at all costs. Once a default judgment has been entered against a consumer, that judgment can be recorded as a lien against that consumer's personal or real property. The consumer may not have any non-exempt assets to collect from at the time the judgment is obtained by the creditor, but collections attorneys know that sooner or later, the consumer debtor will have money or non-exempt assets. Worse, a judgment will in most cases have to be satisfied before that consumer can obtain new credit or a mortgage on a home.
In Washington, a judgment is valid for ten years and renewable for another ten years. The shocking thing is that the interest rate keeps running on a judgment debt after the default judgment has been obtained. Imagine what a $5,000 judgment will look like in 20 years - at 30% interest or more.
In most cases, judgments are completely avoidable. Debt collectors know that over 90% of collections suits filed will end up in default judgments in their favor because the consumer is frightened or simply fails to answer the unfiled summons and complaint.
Do not wait before you take action. The debt that the creditor is alleging you owe them may not be 'your' debt at all. The debt itself may be completely uncollectable for a number of reasons. The credit card issuing bank or third party debt buyer may not have any legal right whatsoever to bring suit against you in the first place. The amount alleged as owed by the debt collector may be several thousand dollars more than is lawfully collectible.
There are several legal and strategic tools that can be effectively used to defeat or significantly modify original creditor, third party debt buyer and collection agency lawsuits under state and federal laws. After defending over 100 of these types of civil suits over the past three years, I know exactly what I'm looking for when it comes to defending these types of lawsuits and obtaining the best possible outcome for the client given each unique set of case facts.
Be extremely careful how you respond to any collections letter or a summons and complaint. Sending a letter to the collections attorney or debt collector may simply end up in that letter being used against you as supporting evidence in getting a judgment. Calling a debt collector may result in that phone conversation being recorded and used against you later.
To protect yourself, contact a debt defense attorney as soon as you get served in order to protect all of your your rights.
If you think you know all of the dirty tricks in the debt collection business and can defend yourself without legal counsel,
You may have several defenses and counterclaims available with which to reduce, offset or completely eliminate the alleged debt. If you've already had a default judgment entered against you, it may not be too late to take action to protect yourself from wage or bank account garnishment - but you must act timely to preserve your rights.
Don't let debt collection agencies or collections attorneys take advantage of you.
If a collections lawsuit has already been filed against you, respond quickly to prevent a default judgment and garnishment of your wages or bank account(s). The sooner you retain competent legal counsel to protect your rights and property, the more options will be available to assist you.
Law Office of Fred Martens
P.O. Box 6416 Bellevue, WA 98008-6416
SMS: to have contact information sent to your mobile device, text "FJMLAW' to 50500.