At the back of every debtors mind is the possibility of legal action being taken against them by their creditors. This often comes at a time when things cannot seem to get any worse as individuals are already buried in debt. If you find yourself in this situation do not lose heart, here are three do’s and don’ts of being sued for debt.
Do get a lawyer. Lawsuits are very serious matters that, if not handled properly, can hurt you for years to come. Many people fear incurring the additional costs of hiring an attorney, but the costs down the road of not hiring one are even greater. Even if the facts of the case are on your side, going up against experienced lawyers will generally end poorly for you. The language, procedures and fast-paced activities of courts can be confusing, and hiring an experienced attorney will give you the best chance of coming out of the proceedings in the best financial and mental shape possible.
Do know your rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is an important piece of legislation that you should become familiar with. This federal law regulates how collection agencies are allowed to go about collecting money from you. This includes making it illegal to threaten you into agreeing to go to court or forcing you to do anything against your will by the use of threats. It also regulates when and how they can contact you, among many other protections. Familiarizing yourself with this law will help you know your rights and protect you from illegal collection methods.
Do realize that most cases can be settled out of court. Just because you are being sued does not mean you don’t have any other options. Going to court is just as expensive for collection agencies as it is for you. Although companies will typically suggest settling out of court, realize that you have the ability to settle out of court, which can lower the costs of being sued while also allowing you to get rid of your debt.
Don’t give creditors any type of bank information. Oftentimes collection agencies will claim that they are only going to take a small amount of money out, either to settle your debt or appease the agency for now. Then when you look in your account, thousands of dollars are missing. The problem is that there is very little you can do about it. Suing the company will do very little because you technically gave them permission and access to your account. You will just be out however much the company removes from your account.
Don’t ignore any lawsuits. No matter how frivolous they seem, don’t ignore a lawsuit. As said before, lawsuits are very serious and complicated matters, and ignoring them can only make matters worse. Having someone sue you looks bad enough, but handling it poorly will do even more damage to your credit and reputation. If you are unsure about a lawsuit just ask about it.
Don’t assume that they can take all of your money. If you are an elderly person on social security or other federal or state funding, do not let a creditor convince you that they can touch your checks. As soon as you are approached by a collector make sure you tell them that you are on social security, or other governmental money.
Just keep these things in mind when you are being threatened because of your debt. Owing money is a good place to be in, but don’t let companies take advantage of you and bully you because you are naïve to procedures. If something seems out of order, then check into it before you mess up and give a company information that they have no right obtaining.
Ashley Russell is a North Carolina native, hailing from Kings Mountain. She is a diehard Carolina fan who loves to watch her team play in any sport—a Tar Heel born and bred. She loves to read and write in her free time. Since high school, she has known she wanted to pursue a career that involved both reading and writing. However, she has recently discovered a love for computers, so she also hopes to incorporate them into her career. She spends her free time tutoring k-5 students in reading and writing in the Chapel Hill area. She is a second-year captain of a Relay for Life team and a participant in Dance Marathon 2011. She is also the online webmaster for the Blue & White magazine based out of Chapel Hill.
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