Do I Need a Florida Debt Collection Defense Attorney?
If you’re accused of murder, you know you need to hire an attorney. But what if you just owe debts you can’t pay? When should you handle it yourself, and when do you need a Florida debt collection defense attorney?
When you are already overwhelmed with debt, you may hesitate to get legal help, because you are afraid of just adding to your debt. But in many situations, a lawyer can save you money and give you a lifeline to getting your life back on track. That doesn’t mean you always need the help of a lawyer. Let’s look at the factors you should consider.
Do You Actually Owe the Debt?
The first thing to consider is whether or not you actually owe the money the debt collector claims. If you do not owe it, and the creditor refuses to correct their records, it’s probably time to bring in an attorney before the situation escalates.
How Much Do You Owe?
If you owe the money in question, you will want to consider the amount of the debt versus the cost of hiring an attorney even if you have a good defense to a lawsuit. Be sure to factor in the possibility that the debtor may ask the court to award interest, attorney fees and court costs. Interest and fees add up fast. A good debt collection defense attorney is likely to be much more effective in settling the debt for a lesser amount than you would be yourself. But if you only owe a small amount, you can easily pay off, you probably do not need a Florida debt collection defense lawyer.
Are You Judgment-Proof?
If a creditor takes you to court and gets a judgment against you, will they even be able to collect? Do you have a job, property or a bank account? Keep in mind that even if you are insolvent now, should your situation later improve, that judgment will still be hanging over your head for some time to come.
Talk to a good Florida debt collection attorney to determine if you are judgment-proof and whether it makes sense for you to hire a lawyer. Then make up your own mind.
Are You Being Sued?
Once you are facing a lawsuit, the urgency of your situation increases. In Florida, you have only 20 days to file an answer to a complaint with the court. If you do not respond to a debt collection complaint, the court will likely order a default judgment against you in the amount the plaintiff creditor requests. The total including costs, interests and fees can easily be much more than you owe if you take no steps to defend yourself. If you do respond, you still need to show up in court for your hearing.
Once the plaintiff has a judgment against you, they can begin action to garnish your wages, seize your bank accounts and put a lien on your home. They can subpoena records from your mortgage lender, bank and other loan holders. They can also subpoena you to go back to court to answer questions about your finances. If you don’t show up, you may be charged with contempt of court. In other words, if you are sued by a creditor and do not respond, you will assure the worst possible outcome for your case. If you are being sued and you cannot settle your case with terms you can handle, you need a good Florida debt collection defense attorney.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Debt collection defense attorneys know the intricacies of defenses and counterclaims that may be unfamiliar to you. After all, they do it for a living. This is why it’s worthwhile to hire an attorney if you have a substantial amount on the line. At the very least, you should sit down with an attorney for an initial consultation to discuss your options. Let’s take a look at just some of the possible defenses and counterclaims that can mitigate your situation even if you do owe the debt.
A defense is an argument for why you are not responsible for the debt or why the creditor should legally be unable to collect.
Here are a few common defenses:
- Debt collection has exceeded the statute of limitations, the time in which the creditor can legally sue
- The creditor filed in the wrong court
- The creditor cannot produce the documentation necessary to prove you owe the debt. This happens a lot when a debt buyer brings a lawsuit.
A counterclaim is a complaint that you file against the creditor who has sued you. Federal and Florida consumer laws offer protection from unfair debt collection practices and penalize collection agencies that violate them. If you win your counterclaim, you may still owe the debt but may be able to collect money damages. A threat of a strong counterclaim may sometimes compel a creditor to refrain from suing or withdraw its lawsuit.
Just some of the possible counterclaims include:
- Illegal harassment or abuse such as a collection agent calling as friends, employers or other third parties about your debt (except in very limited circumstances such as help in locating you). It is also harassment for a collection agent to call constantly or at odd hours
- Deception such as a collection agent misrepresenting themselves as a government official or credit reporting agency employee
- Unfair practices such as making unsubstantiated legal threats
- Giving false information about you to third parties
- Misleading correspondence such as sending you letters that appear to be from a government agency
How Much Will It Cost You to Hire a Florida Debt Collection Defense Attorney?
Many Florida debt collection defense attorneys offer an initial free consultation where you can get answers to your questions and learn what it will cost you to proceed with their legal representation. Possibilities include a flat fee, an hourly fee or a percentage of what the attorney saves you. In some instances, the court may order your creditor to pay your attorney fees.
One of the reasons to hire an attorney is to save money rather than spend more. You are doing yourself a great disservice not to speak with an attorney about the options available to you and the cost of legal representation.
Should You Consider Bankruptcy?
If you have a significant amount of debt, in some cases declaring bankruptcy may be preferable to defending against debt collection lawsuits, particularly if you have multiple creditors. Therefore, you will want to speak with an attorney who is experienced both in debt collection defense and bankruptcy.
Call Us If You Need a Florida Debt Collection Defense Attorney
Do you need a Florida debt collection defense lawyer? Call us so we can advise you of your options.
If you are being sued or if a debt collector is threatening to sue you, immediately contact Ziegler Diamond Law: Debt Fighters for a free consultation by submitting this form. Or just call us directly at (727) 538-4188 in Clearwater, (813) 225-3111 in Tampa or (352) 600-1326 in Mt. Dora. There is no time to waste!