Advice on how to Prepare for a Court Hearing on Debt
A law office bought one of my debts and the case is now in court. What would be helpful for me to provide at this trial?
A law office bought an old credit card debt I owe to Providian. I disputed the amount ($about 900.) with Providian for about 15 months and closed the account because of the dispute. Now this law firm has sued me for over $5000. They have not provided proof that I owe them the debt and say the statute of limitations expiring is not a defense. The court has agreed and now there will be a trial. What would be helpful for me to provide at this trial? I cannot afford an attorney or to pay this giant debt.
I strongly encourage you to retain an attorney to defend you in court, especially since the statute of limitations may have expired for the collection of the debt. I know that hiring an attorney can be expensive, but you may end up with a court judgment against you for over $5,000 plus attorney fees, because you were not aware of your rights under the law, or you were unable to effectively argue your case in court. Depending on the laws in your state, the creditor may be able to garnish your wages, freeze your bank accounts, and/or place a lien on your home in order to collect this debt if it obtains a judgment against you. I understand that hiring an attorney can be expensive, but in your case, I would strongly recommend that you at least consult with one, as the potential harm that this lawsuit may be able to cause is much greater than what hiring a lawyer would cost you. I encourage you to contact your state or country Bar Association's attorney referral service—they should be able to put you in touch with an attorney who can provide you with an affordable consultation. The Bar Association should be able to tell you if you qualify for free or reduced cost legal representation.
If the statute of limitations for filing suit to collect this debt really has expired, the court should dismiss the case. However, you must properly claim the affirmative defense of statute of limitations; if you fail to do so, the court will likely allow the case to proceed. If you already tried to raise that defense and the court ruled against you, it is likely that either the statute of limitations has not really expired—it may be longer than you think—or you did not raise the defense in the proper manner. Either way, you need to talk to an attorney to determine what the statute of limitations really is in this case, and if it has expired, what you need to do to raise the issue. Even if it has not expired, your attorney may be able to find other ways to defend you in this case—for example, he may be able to have the case dismissed if the law firm representing the creditor cannot provide sufficient documentation that the debt is actually owed.
I know that you want to defend yourself in this case, but given the fact that you have already had one setback with the court regarding the statute of limitations, I think that it is worth the cost to hire an attorney to represent you. As I mentioned before, the consequences of having a judgment entered against you, including possible wage garnishment and bank levies, are too great to risk not having proper representation in court. For more information about your state's laws and statute of limitations, you can visit http://www.bills.com/collection-laws/. However, even with this information, it is important that you consult with an attorney who can tell you how to use it. Many attorneys will accept installments for their fees, so even if you do not have the money to pay someone up front, you should contact the Bar Association, explain the situation, and see what options they can offer you.
I wish you the best of luck in resolving this case, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.