Debt Defense and Settlement

Credit Card Defense

Have you been sued by a credit card? Credit card companies will sue you for a past due balance of as little as $1,500. By the time you add interest, court costs and attorney’s fees, the balance can get out of hand very quickly even on small accounts.

Many of these suits are brought with inadequate paperwork or past the deadline for filing such a suit – called stale debt. If so, an attorney knowledgeable in this area can often get the case dismissed, use any leverage you have regarding possible defenses in order to negotiate a favorable settlement or in some cases counter sue for consumer law violations.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (“FCCPA”) allow for a claim for statutory damages of $1,000 for claims that are asserted after the statute of limitations has run.

In Florida, the statute of limitations for a credit card case is normally four years. It is a waivable affirmative defense and should be asserted early in the case.

See our Debt Defense Clinic for further information.

Debt Settlement

We are not a debt consolidation company. But as attorneys we are often able to achieve reasonable payment plans or lump sum settlements for drastically reduced balances. Debt can be settled at any time, even after a judgment is entered. But do not wait until a garnishment starts, it can then be difficult to settle debt because the creditor has already seized your bank account or is guaranteed a stream of income up to 15-25% of your wages as long you maintain the same employment. (See our page on wage garnishment for further information).

This includes all types of debt from credit cards, medical debt, signature loans, and private student loan debt. Federal student loans are generally not something that can be settled, although when the debt is several years in default, we have often settled the debt for much less than what is due.

Above all do not delay! If a creditor obtains a judgment against you in Florida, the judgment will last a minimum of 10 years, and often it is 20 years if the judgment creditor renews the judgment. During those 20 years, the creditors can:

  1. Garnish your wages – typically this is 25% of your net pay.
  2. Seize your bank account (this could be everything in the account up to the amount of the total judgment).
  3. Seize any non-exempt property from you (your vehicle)
  4. Foreclose on non-homestead property.
  5. Impair your credit by having the judgment report to the credit bureaus.

If you are married, and only one spouse owes the creditor, jointly held assets may be protected by the tenancy by entireties defense. If you don’t know what this is, please consult with an attorney. There are limitations as to this defense, the most simple of which is how you have the account listed on the bank signature card. Many people believe their account is protected since they are husband and wife, and only one spouse owes the debt; however, if they have selected tenants in common or joint tenants on the signature card, this may not be true.