Unemployment, unexpected illness, and economic downturns may wreck a credit score that was once in the 800s and cause a family to teeter on the brink of bankruptcy. For some families, bankruptcy might be the best solution; however, other families might work to repay debts over time by making special arrangements with creditors.
Unfortunately, those negotiations and payment arrangements don't always work out, and a debtor might find himself staring at a civil lawsuit from a company looking to collect on a debt. Several avenues exist for dealing with these lawsuits, as well as the vicious attempts of debt collectors to get payment.
Statute of Limitations Basics
When setting out to clear your debts and return your life to a point of financial stability, one of the concepts you'll want to learn is "statute of limitations." This concept means that the government or other parties can only file a lawsuit against you for a certain number of years before that window of opportunity expires.
The statute of limitations exists to encourage timely filing of court cases and to ensure that people who may be sued don't have to deal with the cloud of debt or civil lawsuits over their heads for a lifetime.
Deciphering Timelines for Debt Collection
The statute of limitations often requires victims of various civil issues (like car accidents or slip-and-fall accidents) to speak to a lawyer quickly about filing a lawsuit, because such matters often have a statute-of-limitations of only one or two years before a lawsuit can no longer be filed.
Various debts like loans, mortgages, and credit cards, on the other hand, tend to have a slightly longer timeline for lawsuits. For example, in the state of Illinois an individual has two years to bring a personal injury lawsuit against another party. For written contracts (like credit cards), the state gives people an entire decade to decide whether to sue.
Unfortunately, 10 years is much longer than the statutes of limitations in other states. Alaska has a three-year statute of limitations while California has a four-year statute of limitations. Many states tend to hover between three and six years.
Here are Illinois's statutes of limitations for various civil issues:
- Written contracts: 10 years
- Oral contracts: 5 years
- Injury lawsuits: 2 years
- Property damage: 5 years
Note: These timelines impact civil cases, not criminal cases, which have a wholly separate set of statutes.
Using the Law to Your Benefit
The statute of limitations is something you can place in your arsenal when fighting a debt collector, in addition to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This public law was created to reduce the abusive practices of debt collectors.
One of the reasons why you might want to speak with a lawyer if you're being harassed by a debt collector is because of the FDCPA. Even if the statute of limitations hasn't expired and a debt collector can still legally sue you for a debt, it's not uncommon for debt collectors to "slip up" and break one of the rules in this vital federal law.
§ 802 of the FDCPA states:
There is abundant evidence of the use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices by many debt collectors. Abusive debt collection practices contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy.
When you share your story with your lawyer, he or she will be able to determine whether the debt collector violated the FDCPA and whether you might be able to take action against a fierce debt collector.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers some advice on some of the most common issues people experience when they are harassed by a debt collector. One of the most helpful pieces of information describes the type of debts that the FDCPA covers:
The Act covers personal, family, and household debts, including money you owe on a personal credit card account, an auto loan, a medical bill, and your mortgage. The FDCPA doesn’t cover debts you incurred to run a business.
What to Do When You've Been Sued
The law is a wild and complex arena with thousands of statutes, laws, and codes that impact every facet of our lives. However, you can't put your head in the sand and ignore the calls and communications from debt collectors or the courts.
You may be able to ward off a possible lawsuit by investigating the statute of limitations, after which your lawyer can draft a communication to the debt collector regarding potential violations of the FDCPA.
Need Help Fighting Debt Collectors?
Do you feel your rights have been trampled upon by a debt collector? Do you want to know more about how the FDCPA can protect your rights?
Request a Free, No Obligation Legal Consultation today! There are no hidden fees, no obligations, no pressure and no risk in this consultation.
DISCLAIMER: All information on this website are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. Suburban Legal Group PC shall not be liable for any errors or inaccuracies contained herein, or any actions taken in reliance thereon.