One of the first questions clients ask me is “How long does the creditor have to sue me?” As with many areas of law, the short answer is “It depends.” Specifically, it depends on the nuances of determining which statute of limitations applies to my client's case and when the time began to run.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is essentially a timer that, once triggered, begins to tick down the period of time a party has to file a lawsuit. Once the timer expires, a party generally cannot file the particular lawsuit. In the case of a debt collection action, the statute of limitations provides the length of time the creditor has to file an action against a someone to collect an outstanding debt. If the creditor is outside the statute of limitations and files a lawsuit against a consumer, it can be subject to dismissal.
In Florida, a creditor has five years to file a lawsuit based on a written contract or obligation, and four years to file an action not based on a written agreement (such as sale of goods or store accounts). While that distinction seems straightforward, there are wrinkles that an experienced debt defense attorney from Holland Law Group can help assess.
One such wrinkle is the specific claim being filed by the creditor and the type of debt. If the debt is a deficiency after a vehicle repossession or an outstanding loan agreement, creditors often file a claim for breach of the written contract – bringing the five-year statute of limitations into the picture. A credit card account gets trickier, as a creditor sometimes brings a claim for Account Stated or Open Account. These claims are not based solely on the cardmember agreement and can be subject to the four-year statute of limitations.
The five- and four-year rules only apply to new lawsuits – not to judgments. Once a judgment is entered in Florida, a creditor can have up to twenty years to collect the judgment if they take the proper steps. This means that a judgment entered because you did not respond to the lawsuit can come back to haunt you twenty years in the future through a wage garnishment or frozen bank account! Holland Law is here to help, serving counites all over Florida, from Miami-Dade to Hillsborough, Duval to Manatee, and all points in between.
Call us today for a no-cost consultation to discuss how Holland Law Group can help.