Debt Collector Offers Settlement 3 Years After Judgment

by Crystal
(West Virginia)

I live in the state of West Virginia. In July of 2008, my husband received a post card in the mail from the magistrate court in our county saying to come in and pick up some papers. He was out of the state at the time working a job so I went down and picked up the papers.

It was from a law office in WV saying that they were suing my husband for an amount due to a creditor. He had 30 days to answer this however the job kept him out of the state for over a month and he didn't get to go to court. 30 days came and went, we expected to hear something either from the court or the collector but heard nothing until around Sept 2009. The law office was calling our house, but we didn't answer it figuring they would send something written by mail. The phone calls have continued just about every day since Sept 2009. Yesterday we received this letter in the mail....

Dear ****
This letter is from a debt collector. As you may recall this office obtained a judgment against you on behalf of **** Our client is interested in offering you an opportunity to settle this account for an amount sizably less than the current balance.

Our staff is accustomed to helping others in your situation work with family members, banks, mortgage brokers etc... to find ways to release these liens. Please call us to make arrangements by this date ****

My question is, how do we find out if the company really did get a judgment against my husband? I have checked is credit reports and there is nothing about any judgments. And if this company did get a judgment against him why wait more than 3 years to try to collect it? Can they freeze our bank account? My husbands job only offers direct deposit, if they freeze our account we will have no money at all.

Thanks in advance if you can answer some of my questions.

Reply from

If you do not appear in court or respond to a summons to appear in court, it is very likely for the creditor to get a default judgment. A judgment gives them additional ways to collect; by garnishing wages or attaching bank accounts in some cases (depending on state law).

It is unusual for a judgment not to appear on one's credit reports, but not unheard of. Your husband should check with the court that sent the notice in the first place and ask how he can research whether a judgment was filed.

If your husband can afford to settle the judgment, that may be his best bet. Just make sure he doesn't pay until he has a letter in writing stating all the terms of the agreement, and clearly stating that the amount he pays will settle the debt in full. Under no circumstances should be pay with verbal assurances from the creditor that they will send a letter later.

If he can't afford to pay or settle the judgment, you may want to meet with a bankruptcy attorney
to find out what the judgment creditor can and cannot go after, and to learn whether bankruptcy might be the best option for him to start over.

If there is a judgment against him, make sure you figure out a way to resolve it. Judgments can often be renewed, and additional interest may accrue. That means that if he doesn't do something, the debt could haunt him for a long time.

If by chance you find out that there was no judgment entered against him, then you'll want to talk with a consumer law attorney since misrepresenting the status or character of a debt is illegal under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

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