But what happens if the collection agency does sue? Lets go over some of the potential consequences of a collection agency lawsuit.
This is a fairly common consequence of a debt collection lawsuit. If the collector knows where you work, they can obtain a wage garnishment order through the court and serve it on your employer. Your employer can't fire you just because it received a garnishment order (that's discrimination) but if you already have a garnishment order against you, say, for child support, and your employer receives a judgment garnishment, they're well within their rights to send you packing.
Some people avoid wage garnishment by switching jobs each time a garnishment order goes through or simply by being unemployed (the most effective way is by being self-employed, but we're not gong to go there today). Keep in mind, however, that an aggressive collection agency can call you to court for a post-judgment interrogatory and force you to disclose your employer.
Own a house? Own a car? Watch out. Collection agencies can use their judgments to place liens against property you own. This prevents you from selling the property without paying off the lien. Of course, in some cases, collection agencies use their liens to seize the property, but these situations are still thankfully few and far between. If you have a mortgage or auto loan, your property is probably safe from seizure, as the
|Own a house? Watch out for property liens.|
Just like a collection agency with a judgment can force your employer to garnish your paycheck, it can also force your bank to hand over any money you hold in checking or savings accounts. Certain funds, such as retirement money, unemployment, child support, etc. are exempt, but a collector can generally seize any and all non-exempt funds your account contains--even if doing so takes your account down to zero. And if you happen to have a joint bank account with another individual, that person stands to lose their money too. Even in states that protect joint account holders, only half of the money is typically protected.
The worst part of a bank levy isn't the fact that a collection agency can seize every penny. It's the fact that they can execute the levy over and over again until you either switch banks or the debt is paid in full. While switching banks will give you momentary relief, the collector will eventually find you and levy your new account. If it can't track down your bank account, it can drag you back to court and force you to disclose your new bank to a judge. Ouch.
If the financial consequences of a collection agency lawsuit weren't bad enough, you'll have to suffer the credit consequences as well. You already know that a collection account deals a significant blow to your credit scores. Fortunately, that account can only remain on your credit report for 7 years and 180 days from the date you stopped paying the original creditor.
If the collection agency sues you and wins, however, a civil judgment shows up on your credit report. A civil judgment is a public record, just like a bankruptcy or foreclosure, and deals some serious damage to your credit scores. Unlike collection accounts, the reporting period for a judgment isn't retroactive. It begins the date the judgment is entered. Your state's enforcement period dictates how long a judgment remains on your credit report. If the enforcement period is less than 7 years, the credit bureaus remove it after 7 years. If the enforcement period exceeds 7 years, (and most do) the judgment remains for the full enforcement period. In other words, a collection agency's judgment could haunt your credit report for a decade or more.
Long story short, if a collection agency sues you and wins, you're in a world of hurt. This is why its so crucial to seek help before things reach this point and to learn how to defend yourself in court if a collection agency follows through on its threats to sue.
The Debt Collection Lawsuit Threat
Funds Exempt From Bank Account Garnishment
Make Yourself Judgment Proof