First, if they are representing themselves to be attorneys when they are not, the State bar of Texas wants to know about. The unlicensed practice of law is a crime and the Bar will address it. The fact that a lawsuit is pending suggests that somebody in the organization is an attorney, but a non-attorney cannot represent themselves to be a lawyer.
Second, regardless if they are attorneys or not, it appears that they may have violated portions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. You may be entitled to damages.
Since multiple collection agencies have been involved, they account may have been charged-off by the original creditor and sold to a collection agency, who sold it to another collection agency, who sold it to another, etc., etc. The amount paid for the account by the current collection agency may be pennies on the dollar. Even a modest recovery may be profitable to them at this point. That may explain why the amount of the proposed settlement is in flux. (As an aside, if you settle for an amount substantially greater than the original debt, you may incur an income tax liability on the portion not paid.)
The answer on a suit on an account must be a verified denial. If not, you may not be able to contest the amount claimed in the original petition.
Additionally, you may have a statute of limitations affirmative defense that must be specially plead if it is an old account.
Regardless of any settlement negotiations, you must be prepared to go to trial.
The answers provided here are merely general in nature and may not apply to every situation. They do not represent and not not constitute specific legal advise or recommendations because the advise or recommendation could change based on sprecific factual situations and/or recognized exceptions to general legal principals. An attorney should be consulted regarding the specifics of a particular case before any action is taken or not taken.
Based on what you've described, you ought to talk to an attorney who specializes in this kind of litigation. There are several attorneys in the Dallas area who handle these kinds of cases. Our firm is one of them. If we agree that there are debt collection violations here, we may even handle the case on a contingency basis. Feel free to contact my office for a free consultation.
I am licensed only in Texas. Offering information of a general nature in response to a question is not intended to be legal advice in your state.
I recommend that you contact Mr. Armstrong ASAP. You need to get a lawyer before trial, or you could get into a position that you cannot get out of.
This is not legal advice. You should always discuss the specifics of your issue in person with an attorney. Be aware that there are time limits on all claims that depend on the kind of claim, so do not delay in seeking an attorney.
Litigation is a serious matter; you are subject to all the rules of procedure and rules of evidence whether you are pro se (representing yourself) or have a lawyer. Representing yourself, you are at a distinct disadvantage. Hiring a lawyer who has experience in these type cases will greatly increase your chances at trial. There are defenses which may be raised and burdens of proof the debt collector plaintiff has. I am another Dallas lawyer who has experience in this area. Please call either me or Gary Armstrong.