credit card statement, which is attached to lawsuit. My question is I want to settle with them by making paymanet arrangement, but I am uncertain as to what is reasonable to ask for. I know they purchased this debt for pennies on the dollar. Needless to say since the amount they are requesting is the exact amount of last credit card bill, they aren't considering the filing fee they paid to start the lawsuit.
How much should I start off with to negotiate?
Tough to answer. Start somewhere and see whether they accept or counteroffer. Be careful when settling, though, because once whatever payment arrangement you make is completed, the credit reporting agencies will most likely show this debt as being negotiated, rather than paid in full.
Debt Settlement Attorney
In California, debt buyers will often take 50% with payments at the outset of a case. They will take less "on the courthouse steps" but then you'll pay more in attorney fees. The problem is they will accept a 50% offer when it comes from me, not from the client. When unrepresented defendant's try to negotiate, the debt collectors (from plaintiff's counsel) often demand the entire amount . The reasons are threefold: (1) they are confident of winning the case against an unrepresented consumer; (2) they know the negotiation game and have an information advantage; and (3) they never have to deal with you again, so their is no consequence for being totally rigid or rude.
Sometimes the amount at issue in the case may not justify hiring an attorney. But when a sizeable sum is at risk, you'll usually be better off retaining a consumer lawyer who knows debt collection defense and negotiation, and also knows plaintiff's attorney. This provides you with additional leverage because: (1) it magnifies plaintiff's risk of loss, (2) it negates the information advantage; and (3) eliminates aggressive, disrespectful tactics because of the on-going relationship between opposing counsel.
You should be charged a lesser fee if you retain a lawyer to negotiate only, and not to enter the case as your attorney of record.
I definately agree with Mr. Rose's eloquent analysis, including the fact that, if the amount of debt justifies at all, you should hire an attorney, at least negotiate on your behalf. The right lawyer can identify important defenses and options, that can give you VALUABLE leverage with settlement discussions -- and you might settle for substantially less than 50%! Good luck to you!
I would start at 20% spread over six months. It likely won't be accepted but it will give you a place to start. When I deal with debt purchasers, I like to get accounts settled at around 20-40% on average. The settlement % will depend on MANY factors including how much documentation the debt purchaser has, the age of the debt, who the debt purchaser is, the amount of the debt, what the debt was incurred for, the extent of prior tertiary collection efforts, etc. While I don't, necessarily, disagree with the other attorneys that recommended you hire an attorney - the alternative argument is that the fees you would pay the attorney could be used to negotiate the account rather than pay an attorney. The question, in my opinion, is do you want to do the heavy lifting yourself or do you want to pay someone to do it. HUGE DISCLAIMER - please make sure that you, or a lawyer, respond to the lawsuit. Even if you are in negotiations with the purchaser, make sure you comply with all court imposed deadlines. If it doesn't appear that the debt purchaser is willing to play ball with you, throw my advise out of the window and hire an attorney. I think you should at least attempt to do it yourself first. To restate my disclaimer - make sure you don't miss any important filing deadlines during the process.
I am an attorney licensed to practice law in Ohio and some Federal Courts throughout the United States. I am not answering your question to solicit you as a client and there is a good chance that I am not licensed to practice law in the state that you reside. I hope that you find my assistance beneficial and, at most, use my advise as a finger pointing in the right direction. An attorney client relationship is not established by posting back and forth online. One of the most beneficial aspects of working with an attorney is the attorney client privilege which does not exist when you post personal facts online to faceless strangers. Hire an attorney if you want specific legal advise. If you cannot afford one, call your local bar association or search "(your city) legal aid" online. The fact that you took the time to post your question online likely means that you could use the aid of an attorney. Call around your area and see if any local attorneys offer free consultations.
From my experience in CA, you will not get a favorable rate to settle now that they have sued you. If you hire a local lawyer to defend the case, they will usually be able to get a much better settlement rate for you because the debt collector will know that they are in for the long haul.....
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Debt Settlement Attorney
I agree with Mr. Rose and you should hire an attorney. There may be many defenses which may lead to the case being entirely dismissed. Without speaking with an attorney you may miss the defenses. Debt collectors make money because a majority of consumers do not realize they have rights and that debt collectors have federal and state rules to play by. Most of them don't because they know consumers are unaware of these rules. Speak with an attorney in your area. You can find a consumer protection attorney by going to naca.net