CONSUMER DEBT DEFENSE
MEDICAL DEBT. Medical providers often bill a different amount for the exact same service depending upon how and who has paid a portion of the bill. Additionally, there are billing and collection activity violations that occur that may render the bill un-collectible. Therefore, just because you received services and have been billed doesn't necessarily mean that you are obligated for the entire amount.
CREDIT CARD DEBT | DEBT BUYERS. Original Creditors often sell overdue accounts to debt buyers. Some companies that do nothing more than buy and collect purchased debts are Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC, Midland Funding Management, LLC, Velocity Investments, LLC and Calvary SPV. The debt buyers will buy the account, known as "buying paper", usually for pennies on the dollar in huge batches. These are also known as "junk debt" buyers. Frequently, accounts are very old and not collectible due to statutory limits. This old debt is also known as "zombie debt" and debt buyers, in many cases, will attempt to collect the debt anyway. The debt buyer often will have nothing more than information compiled by the original creditors and maybe the last one or two statements issued by the original creditor. The debt buyers, often through their retained corporate counsel, then file suits in large batches pursuant to an "implied account stated" theory, disregarding the original express written agreement you had with the original creditor. What this means is that they rely upon the original creditor's balance only statement in most cases; if you received the statement and failed to object in any way, an implied agreement to the balance is then presumed. This makes these debts very difficult to defend at the outset because most people have not disputed their credit card statements. Having an attorney who knows the technical defenses to an "account stated" is crucial. Even though the debt may include interest exceeding the lawful limits had the interest been charged by any person or entity other than a bank, courts have allowed the debt buyers, even though they are not banks, to recover the included interest rate. Debt buyers tend to
DEBT RELIEF AGENCY
The Law Office of Heather A. Harwell, P.A. is a Federally designated debt relief agency which defends consumers and files suits on behalf of consumers pursuant to various Florida and Federal laws, including bankruptcy under Title 11.
Don't Just Give Up
or Give In to Creditors!
HIRING AN ATTORNEY IS MUCH MORE AFFORDABLE THAN YOU THINK. The money you pay to an attorney to defend you in a debt case may save you much more money in the long run. Additionally, having a lawyer defend you can reduce the stress you experience in dealing with debt collectors directly. There are defenses and strategies that an experienced attorney may use to challenge the alleged debt, decrease the amount owed or even defeat the claims altogether.
Just because someone has sued you for a debt does not necessarily mean that you are an irresponsible or bad person or that you have little or no choice but to give in to the creditor's demands. Circumstances often beyond a person's control such as an injury, unexpected disability, corporate down-sizing, work hour reductions to part-time so that employers do not have to pay full-time benefits, divorce, death of the primary bread winner, necessary vehicle repairs, medical care, and even dental emergencies, can place a person in a position where he or she is unable to keep up with payments previously made with no problem. Creditors often take advantage of situations such as these by increasing the interest and penalties to a point where interest and late charges far exceed the amounts ever charged or borrowed.
ORIGINAL CREDITOR. Credit cards may begin with low interest rates but, often, once you are late on a single payment, your rate may sky rocket. This means that you could charge $1,000 for groceries, medicine or car repairs and end up owing more than $3,000 after a few years simply because you continue to make the agreed minimum payment but the credit card issuer continues to charge, for example, 39% interest plus "minimum payment fees" plus late fees plus annual fees. Once the interest and fees take your card over the limit, you can be charged "over-limit" fees. The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, or CARD Act, set new safe harbor limits on penalty fees for account violations, such as delinquency, at no more than $25 for a first offense and up to $35 for a repeat offense within six billing cycles. However, if you are late with a payment and the credit card issuer raises your interest, if you make the next six minimum payments on time following the rate hike, the credit card issuer must terminate the increase. But do they? Credit card issuers that tend to file lawsuits rather than sell overdue accounts to debt buyers, like Discover and American Express, are notoriously aggressive in their collections. Hiring an attorney will give you an edge that you do not have otherwise and decrease the stress level of dealing with an aggressive collections attorney.Average credit card interest runs between 17% and 39% once this occurs but some credit card issuers actually charge almost 80%. They can do this because banks and state credit unions are exempt from usury ("loan shark") laws.
CREDIT CARD DEBT |
SIGNATURE LOAN DEBT. If you have taken out a personal loan and not pledged any collateral for the loan, this is an unsecured debt. Many people take out a signature loan to pay other debt which seems like a good idea at first but all you are doing is transferring your debt to another lender. Consequently, you may find yourself unable to pay the debt and face a resulting lawsuit. The situation becomes complicated when you are borrowing from a credit union because credit unions tend to rely upon "cross-collateralization." This means that somewhere in the small print in your new account application, car loan or mortgage, you have agreed that the collateral pledged for your other loans with the credit union are also pledged as collateral toward any other loan you obtain from a credit union. This could mean that keeping your car might rely upon how you handle the other credit union loans, including your signature loan.
Creditors and Debt Collectors file suits hoping you will not hire an attorney or fight their lawsuits. You can attempt to defend yourself or, worse yet, just ignore a pending lawsuit. If you ignore the lawsuit or attempt to defend yourself without knowledge of laws and defenses, you could find yourself scrambling after a judgment is entered and your paycheck is garnished or your bank account is seized.
DEFICIENCY DEBT. Lenders must comply with specific notice requirements and proceed in a "commercially reasonable manner" when selling your repossessed car. If the lender fails to do so, you may either reduce or defeat the alleged deficiency between the amount of the debt and what the lender receives for your repossessed vehicle. If you co-signed for someone else expecting the other person to make the payments, that person may default and because that person has little or no assets or income, the lender may pursue you for the entire amount due.
PHONE | CABLE COMPANY DEBT. Phone and cable companies are notorious for luring you in with enticing reduced-rate offers subject to "locked in contract terms" and specified length of service. You may have experienced difficulty resolving service issues or unexpectedly withdrawn special rates and were forced to switch to another provider but the phone or cable company you left is now pursuing you to pay for the service period or an outrageous "early termination fee."
STUDENT LOAN DEBT. Student loan debt often gets sold several times over. The defenses to a lawsuit seeking payment of a student loan debt from you vary depending upon the type of original lender as well as the debt collector suing you. Additionally, you may have other defenses depending upon whether or not the school lived up to the representations if the loan was issued through the school.
disregard the original contract you had with the original lender even though that is the basis of the alleged debt because relying upon the last bill or statement sent to you for an "account stated" action rather than suing you for breaching the contract terms means that they have much less to prove in court. The firm defends these cases on a full or partial contingency basis depending upon your available defenses, receiving only a small affordable, retainer from the client and then seeking the balance of fees from the debt buyer upon prevailing in your defense. If you are sued by a debt buyer, the firm can assist you. The few dollars you spend may save you thousands in the long run.
AUTO LOAN REPOSSESSION