There are multiple answers to this question.
The filing of a bankruptcy is an “affirmative defense” to a lawsuit against your for collection of a debt. So, can a creditor sue you after your file a bankruptcy? The Answer is Yes. Therefore, you have to take timely affirmative steps to defend yourself. You have to file a written Notice of Appearance and Answer to the Complaint and plead as a defense that you received a bankruptcy discharge. You can’t simply disregard the lawsuit. You have to participate. If you participate and do things the right way, you will win. However, if you do not participate in the lawsuit, then a default judgment could be entered against you despite the debt having been discharged in the bankruptcy court.
The reality is that most creditors do not attempt to sue you after you file a bankruptcy because the creditor knows it is a waste of time and the discharge in bankruptcy defeats the creditor claim. However, every now and then, it does happen due to multiple reasons.
The first reason is because the creditor claim has been sold and transferred many times and the new owner of the creditor claim did not do sufficient research prior to the lawsuit to find out if you filed bankruptcy or not.
The second reason is a private person who represents themselves “pro se” without an attorney and they do not understand bankruptcy law.
However, if you have not filed for bankruptcy and you have an outstanding debt, a creditor can take you to small claims court to recover the amount. You’ll get a notice that you have a judgment against you, and you’ll be given a court date. If the judge sides with the creditor, you’ll be forced to pay the debt in full, or your wages and bank accounts could be garnished in order to pay it.
Small Claims Court is a court that deals specifically with disputes and debts that fall under a certain dollar amount. In Washington, lawyers are not allowed in Small Claims Court. Each jurisdiction has it’s own limits for which claims fall under small claims court. In Washington State, it’s any dispute involving less than $5,000.
District Court is another court that people are frequently sued in for collections because the dollar limits are higher. Lawyers are allowed in District Court.
When you file for bankruptcy, you are protected from wage garnishment and judgments.
If your wages are being garnished due to a judgment, bankruptcy is an option. It’s a better option if you have several judgments against you, since bankruptcy and court costs could add up to a larger amount than the judgment you owe.
Over the past 23 years, the Law Offices of Christopher A. Benson has helped over 2,300 of Washington clients take control of their financial situation. We can stop your garnishment and change your monthly payments for all your combined unsecured debt, and if you have had more than $600 garnished within the last 90 days, we can get all of the money back in most cases. But you have to act quickly–call (253) 815-6940 for your free consultation, or email us today. Evening and weekend appointments available.
About the Author
Chris served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity
Seattle/S. King County for 10 years and served as Vice President
of the organization during part of that time. Read More