|1. How Much Is My Claim Worth?|
|2. Good Debt Collection Case Indicators|
|3. Somebody owes me money and refuses to pay What Can I do to Collect?|
|4. Why Should I Use a Collection Attorney instead of a Collection Agency?|
|5. How Can I Be Sure that Collection Agency Mentality and Tactics Will not be Tied to My Business’ Name?|
|6. What Exactly Does a Collection Attorney Do?|
|7. What is the Statute of Limitations?|
|8. What Will Happen Once I Turn My Case Over to Atlanta Lawyer Group?|
|9. How Much Will My Attorney Cost Me?|
|10. Will I Have To Pay The Expenses of My Case Up Front?|
|11. Will My Case Take Very Long to Resolve?|
|12. How Do I Find a Lawyer?|
|13. I Have Obtained a Judgment and my Debtor Still Will Not Pay!|
|14. How Will My Lawyer Treat Me?|
|15. What is a fi fa?|
|16. Will My Attorney File My Case in My Hometown?|
|17. Georgia Law|
Your claim is worth the amount owed you, plus prejudgment interest, post-judgment interest and possibly *attorney fees, depending upon whether your contract provided for them, or whether they are otherwise available under statute or common law.
If the debt was the result of a breach of written contract, you may be entitled to "benefit of the bargain" or other legal damages. Each case must be examined on its particular facts.
**Attorney fees may be sought and obtained where permitted by contract, statute, or common law.
Please fill out a Free Case Evaluation (button is on the left) and we can better judge what yours might be worth.
These are only some of the major indicators of good cases. If You don’t have these factors, don’t be discouraged. This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list. There is every possibility Your case may still be a great one even if You don’t see any of the factors here. Only a close examination of Your case by a trained and qualified lawyer will determine the chances for getting your money back.
If You want us to consider Your case, we would be glad to receive Your Free Case Evaluation Form.
Hire a lawyer. While we encourage you to make every reasonable effort to collect the debt on your own, debtors often won’t pay attention unless and until they see a legal complaint. See Why Should I Use a Collection Attorney Instead of a Collection Agency?Time is very important. If you wait too long, your claims can be barred by statutes of limitations. See What is the Statute of Limitations.
Good Question! It has been proven time and time again that an attorney has more clout with debtors and therefore more success in recovery.
Ask yourself, if you were a debtor would you pay more attention to a law firm that sends you copies of your evidence of indebtedness and a draft lawsuit or an annoying call from collection agency? Who would you believe the debtor will pay quicker?
Attorneys who concentrate on the collection of delinquent accounts are invaluable resources for any business. We believe attorneys collect the accounts more successfully because people respond more quickly to action (a lawsuit) than to threat of action (a call from a bill collector).
Another benefit of hiring an attorney is that we strive to promote amicable agreements between our clients and debtors. Not every debtor is a deadbeat, and we do not treat them like one until it becomes absolutely necessary. Allowing you and the debtor to maintain a business relationship with the understanding that you mean business and will expect to get paid or take appropriate action may prove more beneficial to your business. By hiring a collection agency you may well be burning the bridge with that customer. We place great importance on salvaging relationships that may have otherwise been terminated.
By hiring an attorney instead of a collection agency the power to collect the debt arises out of law, not out of threats and intimidation tactics sometimes employed by collection agencies. Not all collection agencies are bad, of course. Nevertheless, keep in mind, the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act has strict guidelines on the methods that can and can’t be employed in collecting a debt. By hiring a collection agency to collect on a debt, they are acting as your agent, and as such, you could be held responsible for any unlawful tactics they happen to use in collecting your debt. If they exceed the restrictions of the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act you could be held responsible for breaching this Federal law. For more on the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, See http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fdcpa/fdcpact.php
An attorney acting as a debt collector is also subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. BUT, most attorneys will strictly adhere to the guidelines AND simply file a lawsuit sooner. It is ACTION the debtor will respect, not threats of action.
We do a practical analysis of the likelihood of obtaining a successful judgment, how long it will take to get the judgment, and the likelihood the Defendant can and will pay. We do asset searches on the debtor; skip traces; seek out and find the debtor; engage in negotiations, pursue claims judicially if negotiations are not successful; obtain judgment executions; domesticate foreign judgments; and levy on the debtor’s assets. We prepare all necessary legal documentation and argue cases in front of judges and juries.
The statute of limitations sets the time in which You must file Your lawsuit, or it will be forever barred. If You file after the statute of limitations expires, it is virtually certain Your case will be thrown out and be forever barred from being re-filed. It is incredibly important to know what the Statute of Limitations is in Your case because Defense attorneys routinely look to throw out cases based on expired statutes of limitation. It ends the case for them quickly and cheaply.
An analysis of Your statute of Limitations is one of the very first things You should have Your lawyer do. It is of extreme importance. Determining when the statute of limitations expires.
In Georgia, all actions upon simple contracts in writing shall be brought within six years after the same become due and payable. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-24.
Additionally, a creditor can bring an action against a debtor to collect on a foreign judgment (meaning a judgment obtained outside the state of Georgia) within five years of that judgment being obtained. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-20.
All actions upon open account, or for the breach of any contract, not under the hand of the party sought to be charged, or upon any implied promise or undertaking shall be brought within four years after the right of action accrues. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-25.
Oral contracts, not barred by the statute of frauds, have a 4 year statute of limitations.
Atlanta Lawyer Group encourages you to contact us immediately, rather than allowing the statute of limitations to wind down. A quick response often increases your chances of recovery, and allows us to contact the debtor before we commence actions in a court of law. If an attorney takes a case too close to the applicable limitations, he or she may be forced to file Your case in order to preserve the statute of limitations without really knowing whether Your case is any good or not. It would be a highly unusual attorney who likes or wants to be put in this position (having to file a case before he or she knows whether you have a good case).
First you must furnish all supporting documents for each claim so the dollar amount can be authenticated and an appropriate investigation can be done prior to the filing of suit if applicable. Next, the steps are normally as follows.
Review the file to verify the amount of the debt and the basis for the debt;
Ascertain which Court has proper jurisdiction in this particular matter;
Give the debtor written notice that we represent you and also make a formal demand for payment, either in full or on a schedule (often we include a draft complaint);
If a demand is not met, file suit in the Court whose jurisdiction and venue are proper.
You should not have to pay any attorney fees out of Your pocket. Virtually all collection attorneys accept cases on a ‘contingency fee basis’. A ‘contingency fee’ means that the fee the attorney receives depends entirely upon the attorney getting You a recovery. You only pay if he or she succeeds in getting You money (or getting You something of value). It also means that if there is no recovery, You owe no attorney fee whatsoever. For example, if Your attorney recovers $150,000.00, then he or she would take the agreed upon percentage of this gross recovery. If, on the other hand, Your attorney spends significant time and effort on Your case and there is no recovery, then You owe no attorney fees whatsoever for his or her services.
The Contingency Fee percentage Your attorney will charge You depends on the state in which You live. State laws differ, bar rules differ, the practice in states vary from one to the next. The range of percentages runs from 25% to 50% depending on the facts of your particular case. Whatever the percentage is, You should insist it be put in writing in a fee agreement signed by You and the lawyer or law firm. This is the way it is done by good, honest and ethical lawyers.
Remember, no matter what the contingency fee percentage, you want the very best lawyer, not the K-Mart special who will settle your case for less than it is worth. In life, You get what You pay for. Quality attorneys require the going rate and do not discount.
HOW ARE EXPENSES OF MY CASE HANDLED
The attorney fee is very different than the expenses of litigation. The expenses of litigation include investigators, graphic exhibits, medical records fees, expert fees, filing fees, deposition fees, etc. Expenses in collection cases are normally very small. We can control the expenses of each case by reviewing them, and giving the client pre-approval over all expenses over $250.00.
WHAT ARE EXPENSES OF MY CASE? The expenses of Your case may include costs of medical records, expert fees, court filing fees, deposition fees, court reporting fees, trial exhibits, private investigator fees, etc.
DO I HAVE TO PAY THESE FEES UP FRONT? This will depend upon who You hire. Attorneys generally fall into three categories:
CATEGORY 1 - Some attorneys may require You pay the expenses up front even though the attorney fee is contingent. This is somewhat rare.
CATEGORY 2 - Some attorneys will require You only pay some of the initial filing fees and deposition expenses up front. If You have an excellent case with a "deep pocket" from which to recover, attorneys will usually front all of the remaining expenses of Your case.
CATEGORY 3 - Many attorneys will advance all costs and expenses of litigation on Your behalf if they judge your case to be very good on liability and that the Defendant has the ability to pay without going bankrupt.
In all three categories, the attorney will deduct all expenses he or she advanced on Your behalf from the ultimate recovery in Your case after the contingency fee has been deducted from the gross recovery (the term "gross recovery" means the total value of the complete recovery).
Our law firm most often falls into CATEGORY 3 - advancing all expenses of any case that has excellent liability and a deep pocket from which to collect.
Your fee contract with Your lawyer should spell out how expenses will be advanced and then later deducted from any recovery.
It depends, a debtor may or may not have the ability to pay when they are faced with potential legal action. A lawyer must make a judgment call on whether this debtor can pay immediately, can pay on time, or will go bankrupt if strong demand and very strong actions are taken from the outset.
Post-Judgment, the same analysis must be made. However, post-judgment, we can place a lien on the debtor’s real or personal property and garnishing their wages. Ask yourself, would you want to have your property seized or your wages garnished when you had sufficient liquidity to satisfy a debt?
From Initial Demand Oftentimes, with a demand letter, draft complaint and documents evidencing the debt, the debtor will pay within a matter of weeks. For those who don’t, a lawsuit is the next step.
Magistrate Courts: From filing to judgment will take 2.5 to 6 months.
Oftentimes, the debtor will agree to pay on the day of trial, subject to a consent judgment obtained there. Just as often, the debtor does not even answer the complaint and a default judgment is obtained within 60 days of filing the litigation. Magistrate courts have fewer procedural requirements than the state or superior courts, thus, cases are resolved more quickly. The Magistrate Court has jurisdiction over the trial of civil claims including garnishment and attachment in which exclusive jurisdiction is not vested in the superior court and the amount demanded or the value of the property claimed does not exceed $15,000.00, provided that no prejudgment attachment may be granted. O.C.G.A. § 15-10-2 (5).
The downside of Magistrate Courts in Georgia, is that a savy debtor can often delay things longer than if just filed in State or Superior Court.
State Courts: From Filing to Judgment between 60 days and 1.5 years. In collection cases, often under a year.
State Courts are often excellent places to file such lawsuits. Defendants on promissory notes or accounts often fail to answer and a default judgment is entered on a letter to the judge. The advantage of State courts over Magistrate is in the post-judgment collection discovery permitted. In State court, subpoenas, depositions and general discovery techniques may be used. In magistrate court judgments, the Creditor is severely limited in post-judgment collection discovery. State courts are also advantageous over superior courts because their case loads often move faster, meaning a faster resolution of the lawsuit.
Superior Courts: From Filing to Judgment between 60 days and 1.5 years. In collection cases, often under a year.
Even though State Courts offer some advantages over superior courts, Superior Courts are still excellent places to file such lawsuits. Even though it may take longer to schedule a hearing, often times, no hearing is necessary, so the advantage of the State Court case load speed becomes irrelevant. Superior Courts, also can enforce equitable remedies and hear equitable claims, which State Courts cannot. In instances where equitable claims (such as no contract and the claim is for unjust enrichment), superior Court will be the only place to go.
A Debtor Just Sent Me a Check Marked "Payment in Full" Which Does Not Satisfy the Debt, Can I Cash it?
Don’t cash it without consulting a lawyer. In Georgia, it may or may not be considered and "Accord and Satisfaction" in other words, a settlement in full of the amount owed to you.
According to O.C.G.A. § 13-4-103:
acceptance by a creditor a check, draft, or money marked "payment in full" or with language of equivalent condition, in an amount less than the total indebtedness, shall not constitute an accord and satisfaction unless: a bona fide dispute or controversy exists as to the amount due; or such payment is made pursuant to an independent agreement between the creditor and debtor that such payment shall satisfy the debt.
You are warmly welcomed to Contact Us. We genuinely care about our clients and we aggressively pursue their interests. We want to get you the biggest settlement or judgment. Our location makes it easy for us to handle cases throughout Georgia.
If You do not want to contact us, or if we decline Your case for any reason, we normally recommend You talk with friends, family, local judges and other people You trust to get a recommendation.
Other places to find lawyers include The State Bar of the State in Which You are located and Internet Resources for Qualified Collection attorneys.
The Atlanta Lawyer Group works tirelessly to ensure your judgment is satisfied. It is at this point, that we will utilize the debt collection methods that are available as a result of receiving a judgment in our favor.
The first step may be recording a copy of the judgment to obtain a lien against the debtor’s real property. If the debtor still doesn’t pay, it is then that we need to employ post-judgment discovery methods to identify the debtor’s assets, which the sheriff will then seize and sell to pay your judgment. In addition, we can obtain a garnishment by which you would be entitled to a portion of the debtor’s salary.
You want your lawyer to treat you with respect.
You want reasonable communication response time. You want to be able to receive a return phone call (or email) within 48 hours (or to have someone call you and explain why she or he is unavailable and when she or he will be available).
You want complete honesty from your lawyer. You want a lawyer who only works with the absolute truth and constantly searches for the truth whether that truth is good or bad for your case. Only by knowing the absolute truth can your lawyer best serve you.
You want to be copied on all important papers.
You want your lawyer to tell it like it is, rather than how you want it to be.
You want your lawyer to be completely ethical in the prosecution of your case, in dealing with the other side, and in dealing with you. Contrary to popular belief, unethical lawyers are bad for everyone involved. They do not get better results.
A fi. fa. (it stands for fieri facias), otherwise known as a writ of execution, is a court document that instructs a sheriff to seize and sell a defendant’s property in order to satisfy a monetary judgment against the defendant, issued by the clerk of the court. By recording a fi. fa., a lien is created on any real property owned by the judgment debtor within the county the action was filed in.
This is one of the post-judgment legal tools that Atlanta Lawyer Group will utilize.
Not necessarily. Where You live does not determine where Your action may be filed. The general rule followed by most states is that the lawsuit can only be brought where the defendant resides.
Therefore, Your attorney will generally file Your case in the immediate area in which the Defendant lives.
In Georgia, if there are multiple defendants causing a single harm (in other words, the negligent acts of several people or entities combined to cause Your injuries) you can sue all of the Defendants in any of the counties where a single defendant resides.
In Georgia, if the Defendant is from out-of-state, but the injury was caused here, the Defendant may be sued in the county in which the injury took place.
Venue in cases under this article shall lie in any county wherein a substantial part of the business was transacted, the tortious act, omission, or injury occurred, or the real property is located. Where an action is brought against a resident of this state, any nonresident of this state who is involved in the same transaction or occurrence and who is suable under the provisions of this article may be joined as a defendant in the county where a resident defendant is suable. Under such circumstances, jurisdiction and venue of the court of and over such nonresident defendant shall not be affected or lost if at trial a verdict or judgment is returned in favor of such resident defendant. If such resident defendant is dismissed from the action prior to commencement of the trial, the action against the nonresident defendant shall not abate but shall be transferred to a court in a county where venue is proper.” O.C.G.A. § 9-10-93.
This is a complex case specific analysis. It is one You should go over with Your attorney.