A Debt Collector Got A Judgment Against Me?

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If you get sued for a debt and either lose or ignore the lawsuit, a debt collector will get a judgment against you. Judgments allow debt collectors to utilize aggressive debt collection practices against debtors. Contact BCJ Law’s debt defense attorney if a debt collector has obtained a judgment against you. Complete our contact form or call us at 1-800-997-5561.

What is a debt collection judgment?

In debt collection cases, a “judgment” is a declaration by a court that you owe a debt collector a certain sum of money. The court does not make you pay automatically when a judgment is entered against you. Instead, a judgment is simply a declaration of rights that allows debt collection agencies to engage in debt collection practices to obtain money from you. 

How do debt collector's get judgments against consumers?

Debt collectors get judgments by suing consumers and winning the case. There are two general ways a debt collector can obtain a judgment against you:

  • Default Judgments: debt collectors obtain "default judgments" when you ignore a collection lawsuit or don't respond in time.
  • Judgments/Arbitration Awards: if you contest a case and lose, either at a Magisterial District Justice or at a Court of Common Pleas, debt collectors will get a judgment or an award in their favor.

Again, regardless of how a debt collector gets a judgment against you, that judgment entitles the debt collector to engage in certain types of debt collection practices to collect money from you. These practices are discussed below.

What can debt collectors do after they get a judgment?

There are various things debt collectors can do after they get a judgment against you, including bank account garnishments and property liens:

  • Bank Account Garnishments: debt collectors can garnish bank accounts to collect on judgments. A bank account garnishment is when a debt collector files a writ of execution against your bank, freezes your account, then takes non-exempt funds from your account. In order to take advantage of this collection practice, debt collectors must find your bank account and follow the proper execution procedures.
  • Property Liens: if a debt collector gets a judgment against you, it can file that judgment in any court of common pleas where you own real property. The judgment then acts as a lien against any real property you own. In order to take advantage of this collection practice, debt collectors must find your property and follow the proper procedures.
  • Property Sales: another practice debt collectors can use to collect on a judgment is property sales. This occurs when a debt collector files a writ of execution and sends a sheriff to document any non-exempt personal property you may own to satisfy a judgment.

How long do debt collectors have to collect on a judgment?

There are various factors that determine the length of time a debt collector has to collect on a judgment. For example, if a judgment is entered in a Magisterial District Court, the debt collector must record that judgment in the Court of Common Pleas within 5 years of the judgment expires.

Here are two more important statute of limitations that apply to collecting judgments in Pennsylvania:

  • Debt Collectors Have 20 Years To Garnish Bank Accounts: if debt collectors follow the proper procedures, they have 20 years to seek to seize non-exempt funds from bank accounts.
  • Judgments Must Be Renewed Every 5 Years For Property Liens: for a judgment to remain effective as a property lien, it must be renewed every 5 years by a debt collector.

Is there any way to get out of a debt collection judgment?

It’s very difficult to open a judgment once it’s been entered. There are, however, special circumstances, including the following:

  • Improper Service: if the underlying lawsuit was served improperly, a judgment may be opened. In our experience, this rarely happens in Pennsylvania.
  • Defective Complaints: there are certain defects that appear on the face of a complaint that may allow for the opening of a judgment. Again, this is rare.
  • Void Judgments: a judgment may be void for a few special reasons. Like improper service and defective complaints, it's rare for a judgment to be void.

Because it is very difficult to open judgments. we seek to defend consumers before a judgment is entered against them. If you’re being sued, visit our pages on debt collection lawsuitsmagistrate court lawsuitscourt of common pleas lawsuitscredit card lawsuits, or repossession lawsuits, to learn how we can help avoid a judgment being entered against you.

Hire BCJ Law to help.

If a debt collection judgment has been entered against you, call us at 1-800-997-5561 or complete our contact form.

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