Frequently Asked Questions
You may find it difficult to choose a law firm to represent you in your consumer litigation case. The attorneys at the Consumer Rights Law Group care deeply about consumers and have the experience to fight even the most difficult consumer cases. We have successfully handled thousands of cases for our clients – each and every one a consumer case. We only practice consumer law, because consumers are our top focus. We are happy to speak with you – for free – about your case.
Yes. We estimate that in Tampa alone, hundreds if not thousands of people are sued on credit cards every week. It is not uncommon to see an entire courtroom full of people who have been summoned to a pretrial conference for unpaid credit cards. The amount of the lawsuit will vary but it is not uncommon for a credit card company or a bill collector to sue on a balance that is just a few hundred dollars. In the state of Florida, balances under $8,000.00 go to small claims court and higher balances go to circuit court. When you are sued on a credit card you are going to have several options including 1. Fight, 2. Do Nothing or 3. Settle. Depending on your situation you may prefer one of these options more than the others. You may also have different goals. Some people’s goal is to avoid bankruptcy, for some it is to save their good name. For some people, their goal is to avoid embarrassment, save time or save money. No matter what the defense, it is still the burden of the credit card company or bill collector to prove that you owe the debt. If a bill collector or credit card company cannot prove that you owe the debt then they cannot win in court and get a judgment against you. Read more about credit card defense here.
Yes, your wages can be garnished. There are 2 kinds of garnishment; the first is Administrative Wage Garnishment. When it comes to consumer debts, administrative wage garnishment can only be used for federally subsidized student loans. Therefore, administrative wage garnishment is only available to the Department of Education and bill collectors collecting federally subsidized loans on behalf of the Department of Education. The defenses to Administrative Wage Garnishment are different than the defenses to judgment garnishment. For example, student loans do not have a statute of limitations and are governed by a federal law that allows for income-based repayment. The second kind of garnishment comes with a judgment. For every other type of consumer debt, your wages can also be garnished but can only be garnished with a judgment from court. This means that a bill collector first has to sue you, and then has to win, obtain a judgment and then they have to find where you work, file a writ of garnishment and have it issued by the court. Once a bill or debt collector obtains a writ of garnishment and it is served on your employer, your employer must withhold 25% of your wages. Read more about Wage Garnishment here.
Yes, we do take cases on contingency. While it depends on many factors, in general all of our FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act), FCCPA (Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act) , FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act), TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) and FDUPTA (Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act) cases are based on contingency. In general, our garnishment cases are not on contingency unless there has been some sort of egregious violation that turns a garnishment into an FDCPA case; for example- they garnished the wrong person. With debt defense, like credit card defense, it depends on several factors including the strength of the defense, the availability of evidence at the time that we are retained and whether or not there is an attorney’s fees provision in the contract. In the state of Florida there are only two ways for the winner of a lawsuit to get attorney’s fees; if the statute provides for it or if it’s in a contract. Each of the aforementioned statutes provides for attorney’s fees. These provisions are provided to help consumers who are likely unable to afford an attorney so the provision for attorney’s fees is included in the statute. Both the legislature and The Consumer Rights Law Group want to be able to provide you with legal services free of charge, we like those cases. Attorney James Giardina says, “It’s my pleasure to be a hero”.
The best answer is no. Every case is different and we have to evaluate the cases individually however bankruptcy is rarely an option. It breaks my heart to see people filing for bankruptcy that don’t have to.
A summons is like a wedding invitation except instead of a marriage, it’s a lawsuit. And instead of a reception, it’s a courthouse. A summons means that a bill collector or a bank wants a judge to say that you owe them money. The goal of a summons for a plaintiff is to obtain a judgment against you and then, ultimately, enforce the judgment. In any given case at any given time you always have 3 options. Fight, Do Nothing or Settle. Upon receiving the summons people often ask whether or not they can be sent to jail if they ignore a summons. Just like ignoring a wedding invitation, you won’t go to jail if you ignore the summons but it’s a better idea to respond. Depending on the court where your case was filed and the amount of the claim, your summons may either be to appear in court on a particular date and time (this would be a small claims summons) or to file an answer or otherwise respond to the complaint within 20 days of serving the summons.
The Consumer Rights Law group prosecutes perpetrators of collection harassment and defends consumers in court who have already been sued. We take all of our consumer harassment cases on contingency, meaning there is no out of pocket cost to the client. We keep track of hours and collect our fees from the defendant at the conclusion of the case. For defense work we charge a one-time flat fee with up front pricing after learning about the facts of your case.
If you have been sued on a consumer debt the very first thing you should do is don’t panic. You may have a variety of defenses that could allow you to win the lawsuit. Even without defenses it may be possible that the law suit fails to state a claim on its face. You also have the right to file a counter claim against the collector if they have broken any laws in the course of collecting the debt. Even in the absence of a defense or counter claim, collectors will often settle the case and dismiss the claims against you in exchange for a mere fraction of the amount that the complaint claims is due. The attorneys of the Consumer Rights Law Group will consult with you for free to review your case, evaluate your options and develop the best strategy for dealing with the circumstances.
It is important to know that service of a lawsuit starts a timeline ticking (usually 20 days) that requires you to file a response with the court. Failure to respond within the appropriate time could result in a default judgment being entered against you. If you have been served with a lawsuit you should gather up all of your documents or potential evidence and call the Consumer Rights Law Group immediately so we can develop a plan.
While the law protects federal benefits like social security and disability from being garnished directly as a result of a consumer debt, judgment creditors still have the right to garnish your bank account. This means that if you deposit your social security check into a regular checking account and the collector serves your bank with a writ of garnishment, your funds could be at risk. In order to free your funds you must request a hearing to have the garnishment lifted. If you fail to request a hearing within 20 days, you will lose by default and your money may be gone forever. If you have garnishment questions call the Consumer Rights Law Group today for a free consultation.
In Florida the statute of limitations to collect a debt, based on an instrument in writing, is 5 years. If the debt is not “evidenced by an instrument in writing,” then the statute of limitations is 4 years. The statute of limitations begins running on the day of the breach which, for most contracts, is 30 days after your last payment. If you have been making payments for 10 years on the debt then it is treated like any other debt. However, if more than 5 years has passed since your last payment, the creditor has likely lost its right to sue you. If you are being sued on such a debt it is likely that you have a complete defense to the lawsuit. If you are getting collection calls on a debt that is outside of the statute of limitations you may be entitled to damages as a result of collection harassment.
The first thing you should do is remember that cases are won and lost on evidence. If you think the law was broken as a result of a letter- save the letter. If you think it was broken as the result of a voicemail then don’t delete the voicemail. If you think the law was broken in a telephone call; take a screen shot of the incoming call, its duration and immediately write down everything that occurred during the call while it is still fresh in your mind. Write down the time and date of the call as well as the name of who you spoke to, the number they called from and the company they were calling about. It will be very hard to remember this months or even years from now when your case goes to trial. The second thing you should do is contact one of our attorneys. We never charge for a consultation and are happy to tell you what we think about your case. If you have a case, we will take it on contingency meaning no out of pocket costs to you. We only get paid at the end of the case and even then the bill collector pays us, never the consumer.
In order to garnish your wages, a creditor must obtain a judgment against you in Court. Without a court order, a bill collector cannot garnish your wages for a consumer debt (the only exception is federally guaranteed student loan debts). For credit cards this means that the bank or bill collector must first sue you and then win in court to obtain a judgment. Once the creditor has a judgment against you, they can apply to the court for a Writ of Garnishment or a Writ of Continuing Garnishment (sometimes called a Continuing Writ of Garnishment). Once the Writ is issued, the bank or bill collector must serve the writ on your employer. At that point your employer must withhold 25% of your disposable income until further order of the court. Without a judgment it is impossible for your wages to be garnished as a result of owing a credit card debt. So if there is no case, there can be no wage garnishment.
The only exception is for federally guaranteed student loans. While private student loans must still be reduced to judgment prior to garnishing, federally guaranteed student loans operate entirely differently. If you default on a federally guaranteed student loan, all the lender has to do to garnish your wages is write a letter to your employer informing them that your wages have been “administratively garnished”.