Will Filing Bankruptcy Stop Lawsuits and Judgments for Credit Card Debt?

A Texas attorney explains common issues around credit card debt lawsuits and some options, including bankruptcy.

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Have you been served with a lawsuit? Some people come into my law office and seem surprised that they were served with a lawsuit from a credit card debt. Actually, it's very common. Creditors try to maximize their recovery by filing lawsuits for debt against their delinquent cardholders. Some instead sell the debt to debt buyers, companies that buy delinquent credit card debt for an average of 8 cents on the dollar and then try to collect 100% from the debtors. So you may have been sued by the creditor themselves, or perhaps a debt buyer.

What to Do If You’re Sued for Debt

If you are served with a credit card lawsuit (or any type of lawsuit for debt for that matter), go see an attorney. Ignoring it and hoping that it will go away can lead to unfortunate results.

Three or four times a year, someone comes into my law office to consult with me that has had their bank account garnished (seized) by a creditor that has a judgment against them. One couple recently had $8,000 that the judgment-creditor had seized. When that happens, it is a mess - your outstanding checks bounce, etc.

Creditors Can Take My Wages?

Aren't wages safe from being garnished by most judgment-creditors in Texas? Yes, but once you deposit your wages in the bank, they are no longer considered wages. They are considered bank accounts, and they can be seized by any judgment-creditor that can locate your accounts.

How Do I Defend Myself?

If you just have one or two creditors or debt buyers suing you, it can be possible to hire an attorney to defend the suits (if you have any valid defenses), or in some cases, settle them for something that you can afford. I would not recommend that you try to appear in court and represent yourself in a debt collection lawsuit.

Otherwise, if you have a lot of debt and you are being sued or you have judgments against you, it may be necessary to consider filing bankruptcy.

What Can Bankruptcy Do?

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 bankruptcy can result in the discharge or cancellation of all of your dischargeable debts, which usually include credit card debt, medical debts, payday loans, bank loans, etc. You still have to keep paying on your home, car or truck if you want to keep them, and in some cases enter into a "reaffirmation agreement" with these "secured creditors" if you wish to keep the property. But most other debts are discharged. Some debts are not discharged, such as most student loans, recent taxes, and child support.

Chapter 13

If your income is too high for you to qualify to file Chapter 7, Chapter 13 is probably available to you (See The Means Test & Chapter 7 Eligibility for more information). Filing either Chapter 7 or 13 causes an "automatic stay" or federal court injunction to go into effect, which stops all pending lawsuits and also stops creditors from trying to collect their judgments against you, such as through garnishment.

An added advantage of Chapter 13 bankruptcy is that if you are delinquent on your home loan, the Chapter 13 can be used to bring your payments current.

Car loans and truck loans can even be paid through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan and repossession avoided. If you have owned the vehicles more than 2.5 years, it is even possible to only have to repay the value of the car or truck as a secured claim, with any balance only paid what you can afford to pay, which in many cases is little or nothing.

If you are facing a lawsuit or judgment, my recommendation is to talk to an experienced debt relief lawyer right away.

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