I received a settlement offer for about 1/3 of what I owed and would have accepted their terms, however, I live out of state and just use my Mother's house as my address. She just puts the mail aside for me when I return. Unfortunately, this time when I returned after several months, it was way past the date on the letter to accept their offer, so I just ignored it. Then I was served a summons to appear in court. Is it too late to take the offer made back in November? What should I do now?
If you were served at your mother's address, but do not live there, then the service is not effective. Use this information when you call the attorney to discuss settlement.
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Call the attorney who filed suit. Offer to accept the original offer of 1/3rd. He/she will probably reject it since they just spent more money (court costs and marshal) but they would rather have some now than go through a long court process with an uncertain ability to collect two years from now.
I would bet 50% today will get the job done if you convince them it's either settle now or you will go though a long court fight.
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No, I don't think that it is too late. However, now that the lawsuit has been filed, you'll have to make the offer. To negotiate a settlement of the lawsuit:
(1) As soon as possible, go to the State Bar of Arizona's web site, www.azbar.org. Look up the name of the attorney representing the Plaintiff. Click on the "Email" link. Send the attorney an e-mail offering to settle for less than the amount due and/or set up a payment plan. Refer to the lawsuit case number in the Subject heading. Be specific about your settlement offer.
(2) I rarely recommend that debtors call creditors (or creditor's attorneys) to negotiate settlement of a debt. Doing so puts the debtor at a tremendous disadvantage, because the debtor is usually inexperienced and the creditor collects for a living (i.e., is a professional).
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You may have a few things working in your favor (such as the ineffective service Mr Cesta pointed out). Was the suit brought in the name of the original creditor? If not, debt buyers who pay pennies on the dollar to buy these accounts often file complaints that are legally insufficient. They are also willing to settle for a lower amount. You need to speak with a consumer debt relief attorney. Many attorneys offer an initial consultation at no cost to you.
But time is of the essence. If you're trying to work out a settlement with the creditor's attorney and do not timely respond to the complaint, they will likely get a default judgment against you.
One final word of caution: if your settlement results in excused or forgiven debt of more than $600, you will receive a 1099 next January from the creditor for the amount of the excused debt which is considered income to you.
It is almost always possible to settle a debt for less than is owed before it is paid. The factors are your collectibility and how much time and money will be spend by the creditor in attempting to collect. Attorneys are obligated by ethical rules to convey any settlement offer to their clients. If the creditor offered to settle before for 1/3 of what you owed, they are likely to accept something close to that now. Do not delay, however, because once they have a judgment, it is more difficult for you to get them to accept a compromise.