The ultimate answer to most debt problems is personal bankruptcy. A bankruptcy case can discharge (eliminate) all debts that you owe, except for a few specific types of debts. Child support and other "domestic support obligations," and student loans, are the two common types of debt that are not commonly dischargable in bankruptcy. If your debts are one of these types, or if bankruptcy is not appropriate or possible for you for some other reason, there are still legal actions an attorney can take to help you manage your debts.
If you are sued on a debt, you have the right to demand that the debt is real and is truly owed by you. Debt collectors, creditors, guarantors, and lenders today will so frequently buy and sell debt that it is not unheard-of for them to occasionally misplace the proof of who is responsible for what. Sometimes, they make mistakes and target or sue the wrong person. If you think this has happened to you, you should consult an attorney.
These mistakes are really quite rare, though. Most of the time, people are genuinely responsible for the debts they are charged with. In these cases, even if bankruptcy is not an option, it is usually possible to work out a payment plan with the creditor that does not cause serious hardship. Creditors want to get paid, after all; they do not profit by demanding so much money that one loses one's livelihood.
It is usually advisable to have an attorney to negotiate with creditors for you. Creditors, especially large financial institutions or debt collectors, may try to intimidate an unrepresented person, and to demand higher sums of money than they have a right to expect; but they cannot intimidate a lawyer working for you. Your lawyer may be able to help you settle a debt for less money than it was originally worth, or to negotiate a payment plan you can afford.
You also have the right to be free from harassment or intimidation. Debt collectors are governed by the Federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, 15 USC 1692, and, in Oregon, by the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act, ORS 646.605--652, as well. These laws prohibit debt collectors from threatening to take any action that they are not allowed legally to take (for example, threatening to send a debtor to jail, to harm the debtor or their family members, to damage or destroy the debtor's property, or to slander the debtor. These tactics are never legal to engage in or to threaten). Debt collectors also may not make telephone calls to debtors at hours known to be inconvenient (generally, before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm local time), or to misrepresent the law, or to notify third parties of a debtor's debt. A debt collector who violates these rules may be subject to up to $1,000 in civil liability to the debtor under Federal law. If you have been subjected to any of these tactics, you should consult with an attorney immediately.
Jay Bodzin, Attorney at Law - 2075 SW First Avenue, Suite 2J, Portland, OR, 97201
Telephone: 503-227-0965 | Fax: 503-345-0926 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Nothing on this page is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to constitute legal advice for any situation. Every case is unique. If you have any questions, you should consult with an attorney.