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Debt Collection Lawsuits: Do You Know How The Process Works?
Legal experts who understand the debt collection process stress that debtors cannot miss their court date when being sued on a bad debt – regardless of whether that debt is actually bad or theirs at all. That’s why they say that it’s important to understand the process. So, do you know how it works?
Don’t miss your court date!
Why is it so important to do something about a debt before it goes into default judgment? We asked Steve Recordon, an attorney from San Diego, California whose firm represents individuals who have been sued or harassed by debt buyers, to answer that question in a recent interview. He told us, “The one thing I stress to debtors is whether you hire me or not, you cannot miss your court date. Debt buyers have different strategies for dealing with these lawsuits. For example, let’s take a basic credit card lawsuit. They’ll file the lawsuit and then they might want to save themselves the money that it costs for personal service, which is required, so they’ll mail the complaint to the debtor.” However, Recordon says that’s not acceptable.
How the process works
Recordon says that it’s important for debtors to understand how the process, and the court system in general, works in a debt collection lawsuit to avoid being victimized by debt collectors. He explained:
Once a complaint is filed and served, and it has to be served, the defendant has 30 days to file what’s called an answer. However, the debt buyer can wait longer. In San Diego for example, they can wait up to four months before they actually are required to file a default. During those four months, they’re constantly trying to collect prior to having to pay the filing fee for the default or the service of process.
They have different tricks and they know how people react to the different stages of litigation. So, they don’t always act quickly, or as quickly as they could, because they would much rather resolve it voluntarily than have to go though the long-term collection process of filing the lien in the county and chasing after them through skip-tracers (people who find other people’s whereabouts). Skip-tracers will help them get the telephone numbers of friends or family members who they’ll call and put pressure on them.
Can they call you on your cell phone?
Has a debt collector called you on your cell phone? If so, how did they get your number and can they use it as a means to harass you? Recordon says that skip-tracers can, and often do, provide debt collectors with that information. However, he also told us that consumers are protected under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). He explained:
The TCPA says that if they do call on your cell phone, the penalty can be $500 per phone call if it’s unintentional and $1,500 per call if it’s intentional. So they have some pretty heavy penalties, but what happens is the average debtor is unsophisticated and doesn’t realize that they have options. Most lawyers are not familiar with the TCPA, which is an evolving area of law. As a matter of fact, the most recent case was in April out of the District Court in Northern California, which laid out the test for violation of the TCPA. Debt buyers are afraid consumers are going to find out about it because the penalties can be substantial. Of course, class actions are also a good way to teach the debt buyer that that type of conduct won’t be tolerated.
If you’re being harassed by a debt collection company, contact an attorney to discuss your situation and evaluate your options. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential. Click here to speak with an experienced debtor’s right collection lawyer who understands the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
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