Attorney Aaron J. Keller focuses on the area of debt collection defense. In defending against debt collection lawsuits, borrowers might have claims against debt collectors (Fair Debt Collections Practices Act), credit reporting companies (Fair Credit Reporting Act), and creditors (Truth in Lending Act). Aaron assists borrowers in both defending and identifying and prosecuting all of those claims.
Successfully Defending Against Debt Collection Lawsuits
There are numerous defenses available to borrowers in debt collection lawsuits, and debt collectors often don't have sufficient evidence, time, or interest in individual cases to successfully prosecute them.
Defenses to Debt Collection Lawsuits
Statute of limitations: the debt might be too old to be collectible.
Identify theft or incorrect identity: the account might have been opened by fraud, or the debt collector might be suing the incorrect person (e.g., similar name, previously lived at the address, data entry error at the creditor or debt collection company, authorized user not liable for the account, etc.) for the debt.
Lack of capacity: the borrower might have been a minor, had a mental disability, or under the influence when the credit account was opened.
Incorrect amount: creditors might have made a billing error prior to selling the account to a debt collector, or a debt collector might be trying to collect prejudgment interest, attorney fees, or other charges to which it is not entitled.
Insufficient Evidence from the Debt Collector
Inadmissible business records: the debt collector might be relying on a few monthly statements from a prior creditor to bring its case. These statements might not be admissible in a debt collection lawsuit.
Defective affidavits: the debt collector might have a very official looking affidavit from a person who claims to validate the debt, but often these affidavits are inadmissible or inconsequential, as they come from a person who cannot actually validate a debt.
Time and interest of the debt collector: debt collectors sue thousands of borrowers every day across the country, so they often do not have the time or interest to actually develop and prosecute individual cases in which borrowers force them to go through the litigation process.
Data breaches: some major debt collectors have had their records stolen by external actors who might charge a ransom to return the information. Any time a business record has changed custody or been accessed by another party, it can be challenged as both inaccurate and inadmissible in a lawsuit.
REASONS TO HIRE A LAWYER WHEN CONTACTED BY A DEBT COLLECTOR:
The worst thing you can do when faced with a debt collection lawsuit is nothing. From saving money to improving a credit report, there are numerous reasons to hire a lawyer and defend against debt collection lawsuits.
1. You might save yourself money.
Yes, seriously! We will work with you to identify a flat fee for representation that is less than the amount that the debt collector is attempting to obtain from you. If you are sued by a debt collector, and you do nothing to defend yourself, the debt collector will be able to obtain a default judgment against you for the entire amount for which they are suing. The debt collector can then contact your employer to garnish up to 25% of your disposable earnings to get the money for which they sued; this wage garnishment could potentially last for months or even years in order to fulfill the judgment. A lawyer can work to defend and get a debt collection case dismissed, saving you money and the uncertainty of potentially years of payments to a debt collection company.
2. You want to avoid bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy can be a very valuable tool when a person has numerous, significant debts to a number of creditors. Bankruptcy can have many types of debt removed entirely, but in exchange, it can be very, very difficult to obtain any new type of credit for 7 to 10 years, depending on the type of bankruptcy you file. Filing for bankruptcy can also cost several thousand dollars in legal fees and court costs. In situations where a debt collector is suing you on a single account for hundreds or a few thousand dollars, the consequences and expense of filing for bankruptcy might not be worth it. Instead, hiring a lawyer to defend against the debt collection can save time, money, and years of damage to a credit report.
3. You don't have the time or energy to deal with a debt collector.
If you're tired or overwhelmed with letters, phone calls, emails, and texts from a debt collector, hiring a lawyer to deal with the debt collector can provide significant mental relief, often immediately. A lawyer can get the direct communication from the debt collector to stop, and hiring a lawyer can significantly alter the debt collector's behavior. There are strict limits on the manner and type of communication that debt collector's can have with borrowers, and a lawyer will help to enforce those limits, and in some cases, advise on suing the debt collector for violating the law.
4. You might have legal claims against the debt collector; the debt collector could actually end up paying you money!
In order to rein in abusive behavior by debt collectors, Congress passed the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) which sets limits on how and when debt collectors can communicate with borrowers. If the conduct or communication of a debt collector violates the FDCPA, borrowers can sue the debt collector for damages, a monetary award of up to $1,000, and the court and legal costs to file the lawsuit. A lawyer is able to provide this powerful tool to borrowers to change debt collector behavior and win borrowers money and relief.
5. The debt collector might not have the evidence to win its case.
A debt collector might have only a few monthly statements from a credit card account or a few other documents that it's using to file a lawsuit. This is often not enough to win a case, and it could very well be inadmissible in a trial. A lawyer can force a debt collector to gather and present evidence, and when the debt collector can't do that, a lawyer can try to get a case dismissed.