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Is my car protected from a debt collectors civil judgment in Pennsylvania?

Hamburg, PA |

If i get sued by a debt collector and they win the judgment , would my vehicle be protected from them taking it from me if the value of the vehicle falls below the exemption amounts that are allowed for PA residents ? To my understanding , in PA , you can use either PA or Federal Bankruptcy exemptions which also apply to civil judgments to protect property from creditors as well . The Federal vehicle exemption of $ 3450 plus the use of the " wild card " exemption of $ 1150 for personal property appear to protect vehicles in PA up to the total amount of $ 4600 . So if my vehicles blue book value is $ 4000 , does that mean a judgment creditor could NOT attempt to take my vehicle because then won a civil suit against me and I wouldn't have to file for bankruptcy to keep my vehicle ?

And yes, i own the vehicle out right. Im not making vehicle payments on any loans on it.

Attorney Answers 4

  1. Best answer

    Federal bankruptcy exemptions do not apply to state court judgments in PA. There are no exemptions for a car for a state court judgment. The only exemptions to a PA state court judgment are: a Bible, clothes/uniforms and a sewing machine. You also can keep up to $300 in any one bank account. Things like Social Security, unemployment compensation, worker's compensation, pensions/retirement, insurance or IRAs are also exempt.

    The ability of a creditor take your car does not mean that a creditor will take your car. Remember, it costs money to have the sheriff seize, store and sell your car. Sales have to be advertised. So if the car has a blue book value of $4,000 its not going to bring in that much at a sale.. It depends on the amount of the debt, but my guess is that the creditor might not bother if this is for a credit card or other unsecured debt.

    I would take a wait and see approach and if the creditor would try to take your car in execution, then I would file bankruptcy as it would stop the execution in its tracks.

  2. I believe Ms. Hunter's statements to you are correct. If you have not filed for bankruptcy protection, you cannot use such exemptions. Ms. Hunter has given you an excellent statement of the law and has gone as far as anyone can on Avvo, This is better information than you will get on the internet anywhere else. Many lawyers will give you a free consultation regarding such issues to determine if their services are of use to you.

    I suggest that you try speaking with someone in person if you want more information. However, unless you are being sued, you probably do not need to do this right away. If this is a local hospital, you might want to consider working out a payment plan that you can afford. This would keep your doctors happy. If it is a larger company, be careful that the debt has not been sold. This is common nowadays and creates a different situation for you.

  3. The answer of Ms. Hunter is correct. The exemptions that you mention apply in a bankruptcy case, but not outside of one.

    This communication is intended as general information and not specific legal advice, and this communication does not create an attorney-client relationship. To get legal advice, consult an attorney in your local area or the area where the issue is located. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response is based on the limited facts provided, and without any independent investigation of the author. Given additional or different facts, the response would likely change. The attorney providing this response is only licensed in Pennsylvania, and you should contact an attorney in your jurisdiction if it is outside Pennsylvania.

  4. The information provided by the other attorneys is correct, but the real issue here is "who is the debt collector and who are they collecting for"? If the debt has been sold, then don't worry so much about losing. Worry more about finding the right consumer attorney who will beat that debt collector in court. When debt is sold, debt collectors are easily beaten in most instances by a good consumer attorney.