LAWSUITS & GARNISHMENTS in North Georgia

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LEGAL OPTIONS WHEN SERVED WITH A SUMMONS IN GEORGIA    

- Written by Brian R. Cahn   

My law practice is devoted to consumer advocacy - assisting and defending consumers in need of debt relief. It’s not uncommon for consumers to stay afloat during difficult financial times by making arrangements with creditors, or borrowing from “Peter” to pay “Paul.” However, once a lawsuit or garnishment is filed by one or more creditors, this is a game-changer, and something needs to happen to get relief and a fresh start. Otherwise, a garnishment of wages or bank accounts will not leave enough money for essentials like rent and utilities, and certainly de-rails the best of intentions to pay all of your debts on an agreed basis. Once a collection lawsuit is filed, the consumer needs a free consultation with a qualified, experienced attorney. When I provide such a consultation, I do so with respect and empathy, but with tenacity, and I make sure to detail and outline ALL available options. Even though bankruptcy is generally one of those options, we always try to determine whether there is a better non-bankruptcy resolution first. Lawsuits in Georgia generally require an Answer or a bankruptcy to be filed within 30 days to prevent a default that results in a judgment and garnishment. Judgments in Georgia become liens on your property, and the impact of a judgment on your credit report, in many ways, is actually worse than a bankruptcy. Therefore, it is important to schedule a consultation quickly, without delay. Together, we can find the best way to help you manage and overcome this financial setback. 

Which Creditors Typically File Lawsuits in Georgia?

Any creditor can file a lawsuit, but in my experience, most lawsuits in Georgia are filed by creditors or attorneys that consist of a group that regularly files most of lawsuits served on my clients. Over the years, having successfully litigated many times against each creditor or law firm in this group, I’ve developed an excellent understanding of the best tactics to bring to bear, depending on which creditor filed the suit, and my client’s available defenses and resources. Many of these serial-lawsuit-filers aren’t the original creditor, but a “debt buyer.” Others in the group are attorneys that handle debt collection matters. Regardless of who filed the suit, I can let you know what it’ll take to stop the lawsuit in its tracks.   

Here’s my updated list of the most-common filers of collection lawsuits in Georgia:

  • Howe & Associates

  • LVNV Funding, LLC

  • Unifund CCR, LLC

  • Jefferson Capital Systems, LLC

  • Santander Consumer, USA

  • Tidewater Finance

  • Asset Acceptance, LLC

  • Brock & Scott, PLLC

  • CACH, LLC

  • NCO Financial Systems

  • Pollack and Rosen, P.A.

  • Resurgent Capital Services

  • TD Auto Finance

  • Weltman, Weinberg, Reis, LPA

  • Zwicker & Associates, P.C.

Options to Defend or Stop the Lawsuit

If you do nothing, the creditor will receive a judgment against you, which is a lien on property and can be used to start a garnishment. I’ve outlined some options below, but your case will be fact-specific, so I will have to actually explain these options to you in greater detail, so you’ll understand the advantages and drawbacks of each.

Strategy # 1: Answering and Defending the Lawsuit

A variety of defenses can be raised in an answer to collection lawsuits. For example, the statute of limitations may have expired, or the lawsuit may have been filed in the wrong county. Sometimes the creditor cannot prove that it owns the debt or that you signed or authorized the debt. Furthermore, a constellation of consumer protection laws provide ammunition for a defense, and maybe even a counterclaim. Examples include the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). If you have defenses or counterclaims to the lawsuit, these can be raised and used as leverage for a dismissal or favorable settlement. There is no guarantee that you’ll have a slam-dunk defense, or what will happen, but if you call my office for a teleconference with me, we’ll set up a time to discuss the issue and determine whether this is the best strategy for you.

Strategy # 2: Insolvency Immunity

“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” – Janis Joplin. 

Some people don’t have any real estate and don’t have regular paycheck wages or other assets that can be reached by a garnishment or lien. Social Security benefits are exempt and protected from creditor garnishments. If those consumers generally don’t mind the annoying phone calls and letters, then they’re insolvent and essentially “judgment proof” because a judgment – even if one is entered against them – can’t be collected by the creditor. Plus, we don’t have debtor’s prisons in Georgia or America, so there’s no real threat posed by the creditor or judgment. This segment of consumers can choose between doing nothing (ignoring the lawsuit) or filing a bankruptcy to escape the shadow of debt and to stop the collectors from calling.

Strategy # 3: Discounted Settlement of the Lawsuit

Settlement of a lawsuit is definitely an option to consider. Whether to settle, and the amount of the discount or flexibility offered by the creditor, will be a case-specific determination. In general, though, settlement is a good option if you don’t have too many other “problem” debts, and you have the ability to lump-sum settle or pay monthly payments. This option needs to be weighed and compared to your bankruptcy options in terms of cost, time it will take to restore your credit, your overall budget, and so forth. Also, some of the creditors will settle for a fraction of the debt, while others tend to be very rigid and don’t discount the debt by any meaningful amount. I’d be glad to evaluate your specific matter for a free and candid discussion as to the best way or ways to handle the lawsuit.

Strategy # 4: Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Even a “good” settlement of a lawsuit has disadvantages because it’s still a long-term scar on your credit and costs a lot of money just to settle (usually 40% to 80% of the amount owed). Bankruptcy is a tool that consumers are allowed to use to fix their finances. It’s not morally wrong to file a bankruptcy, especially when a creditor has forced you into an impossible corner with a lawsuit. Bankruptcy is a federally guaranteed right, and it’s a right that can be traced back to our Constitution, Declaration of Independence and even the Old Testament. It’s about forgiveness and responsibility. Responsibility to your family to restore order to the household budget so you can restore financial order without the anxiety and suppression caused by overwhelming debts.

Did you know?: There is a great deal of Biblical support for bankruptcy. The seven year interval between Chapter 7 bankruptcies was based on Deuteronomy 15:1-2, “At the end of every seven-year period you shall have a relaxation of debts, which shall be observed as follows. Every creditor shall relax his claim on what he has loaned his neighbor…” Leviticus 25 speaks of a complete discharge of debts in fiftieth year jubilee and Ezekiel 18:13 condemns the charging of interest. According to Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Our country was founded by people who wanted a fresh start from the oppression of the rich, and inasmuch as slavery is not tolerated in our civilized society, the concepts and practice of freedom, forgiveness and redemption are central to our religious and societal beliefs.

Chapter 13 is a repayment plan, approved by the bankruptcy judge that allows you to propose a payment to your creditors based upon your budget and ability to pay. Chapter 13 cases are not very expensive to file, usually filed for a cost between $0 down to $360 down, and the plan will last between 36 months to 60 months.

Strategy # 5: Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7, like a Chapter 13, will immediately stop the lawsuit or garnishment. Chapter 7 is fast, inexpensive, and allows the filer to pick-and-choose which debts to keep, and which debts to eliminate (“discharge”). Some debts, however, are not dischargeable, like student loans and child support. Some tax debts owed to the IRS or State of Georgia can be discharged while others cannot. To determine whether or not Chapter 7 might be a good option for your situation, I’ll need to make sure your assets (e.g., your home equity, your vehicles, etc.) have values within the amounts we can fully-protect (exempt), and I’ll need to compare your income to a statutory formula (called the “means test”). I’m always willing to provide this evaluation for free, with a thorough and confidential telephone or in-person consultation.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, all hearings are being conducted by telephone which is extremely safe and convenient. 

ALLOW ME  TO EMPOWER YOU  TO STOP THE LAWSUIT, COLLECTION HARASSMENT & ANXIETY

You may have a variety of options, but it is very important to be proactive, and take control immediately. The best part of my job is helping good people with unfortunate problems and witnessing the palpable relief my clients experience once debts are gone and under control, compared to the anxiety and stress they were experiencing before. Let me help you find the peace and fresh financial start you deserve. Call me for a FREE CONSULTATION so I can help you determine which option to pursue in order to resolve this matter. I have 4 office locations: Cartersville, Dallas, Calhoun & Dalton. My fees – no matter which strategy we choose - are affordable, and I will work with you to create a payment plan that suits your budget. 

-Brian R. Cahn

(770) 382-8900