What should I do when a debt collector gets a judgment against me?
In a debt collection case, a judgment is a court order that you owe the creditor money. A judgment gives the creditor the power to garnish your bank account and wages. It has a negative impact on your credit score. And in some cases, creditors will exercise their post-judgment power to seize some of your personal property and have it sold to pay the debt. Having a judgment against you is an unpleasant situation to be in and is one of the main reasons why it’s so important to answer the summons and complaint. If a creditor has a judgment against you, here are some of your options:
- Consider a motion to vacate the judgment. If the judgment was obtained by default, you may be able to bring a motion and eliminate the judgment. This will give you a chance to defend yourself. Think of it as a do-over. But you’re only able to get a judgment vacated in very limited circumstances. A consumer lawyer can help you decide if a motion to vacate is right for your case.
- Negotiate a settlement or payment plan. If a motion to vacate the judgment is not appropriate in your situation, your options are pretty limited because the time to dispute the debt has passed. In many cases, your best choice may be to engage the creditor and arrange for payment. That may be the only way to avoid the stress and inconvenience of garnishments. Good deals are hard to come by after judgment because you’ve lost most of your leverage. But if you can demonstrate a significant financial hardship, or have a lump sum of cash available, you may be able to get the creditor to knock a decent chunk of the balance off.
- Remember that the FDCPA applies even after the judgment is entered. So keep a record of all the conversations you have with the debt collector and save all letters and voice mails from them. And if you think that a debt collector has violated the FDCPA, consider talking to a consumer lawyer about the situation.
- If all else fails, bankruptcy may be your best option. If the judgment is for a significant amount of money, or if you have multiple judgments, your best choice may be bankruptcy. Consider talking to an experienced bankruptcy lawyer to figure out whether bankruptcy is right for you.
If you live in Minnesota and want help dealing with a debt collection judgment, feel free to contact me by using the contact form in the upper right corner of this page. I offer a number of flexible representation options, so even if you can only afford to pay a few hundred dollars, I might be able to help you.