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Debt Collection FAQs
THE LEGAL ASPECTS OF CREDIT AND COLLECTIONS
To succeed, businesses must be paid promptly and in full. With the help of our New Jersey collection attorneys, business owners and managers can collect promptly and protect their rights regarding credit and collections.
This section reviews the legal aspects of credit and collections, including credit checking, collection letters, and collection lawsuits. It covers collection techniques that apply to consumer accounts and commercial accounts –debts owed by individuals and by companies.
ADOPTING POLICIES AND PROCEDURES TO IMPROVE COLLECTIONS
Carefully written credit and collection policies improve collections. Your policies should cover procedures for using credit applications, handling billing, sending collection letters and making collection phone calls. Our attorneys can help your company write credit and collection policies that will expedite payment of receivables and comply with debtor protection laws.
USING CREDIT APPLICATIONS TO HELP COLLECTIONS
Start with well thought-out credit applications. The application should contain crucial customer information — the name, address and phone number of the customer, the owners of corporate clients and credit references. Complete names and address will ease collecting delinquent accounts. Customers are willing to supply this information up front to avoid having to pay cash.
You can word the application so that your company has the right to collect interest when accounts are paid late and attorney fees incurred. A credit application can also ask for personal guarantees of the individuals behind corporate customers or the guarantees of the customer’s partners or spouse. This enables you to collect the debt from these other individuals if the customer does not pay it.
WRITING EFFECTIVE COLLECTION LETTERS
When your company cannot collect business debts from a customer, we will send a letter to the customer on law firm stationary demanding payment and warning of legal action if the debt is not paid. Such a letter lets customers know that you intend to pursue your legal rights to collect the debt and is often enough to cause the customer to pay in full.
In some instances, the customer may respond to the letter by explaining why the debt remains unpaid. The customer may have a justifiable claim for a bill reduction due to a product defect or late delivery. Or the customer may want to pay, but lacks the money. Initiating communication at the earliest possible time may uncover information about something your are doing wrong and help your with other customers.
Our collection attorneys can help you to resolve matters without a lawsuit by settling any disputes and arranging payment schedules. We may also suggest that delinquent customers sign promissory notes, furnish collateral, and provide personal guarantees of payment.
WHEN A LAWSUIT IS UNAVOIDABLE
Sometimes a lawsuit is the only way to collect a debt. We may recommend a lawsuit after attempting to collect with a demand letter and investigating your customer’s ability to pay. For example, you may have to sue a solvent customer who refuses to pay without justification or who fails to respond to our letter and follow-up phone call. If the customer is out-of-state and is not subject to jurisdiction of New Jersey’s courts, we may recommend referring the matter to a lawyer in that state. Be sure your credit and collection policy names the employee responsible for working with your lawyer so that critical time is not lost.
Commencing suit may cause the customer to pay. In other cases, the customer may ignore the lawsuit, or hire a lawyer to defend it. If the customer fails to pay after commencement of the lawsuit, we will take the necessary action to continue it, such as motions, discovery information and, if necessary, trial. If the customer does not have a valid defense, the action should result in a court judgment in your favor.
COLLECTING YOUR JUDGMENT
The judgment may not be the end of the procedure. After obtaining a judgment, our collection lawyers will help you attempt to collect it. The first step may be recording a copy of the judgment to obtain a “lien” against any real estate owned by the customer. If the debtor still doesn’t pay, we may find other assets of the customer, which the Sheriff can sell to pay your judgment.
In appropriate cases, we can help you to “pierce the corporate veil” and collect assets from a corporation’s shareholders. If the customer had transferred assets to others to avoid paying the judgment, we may help you cancel these transfers, sell the assets and collect your judgment.
RECOVERING YOUR MERCHANDISE
You may have a legal right to reclaim merchandise when a customer fails to pay immediately after it is delivered. Particularly, when a customer declares bankruptcy, our lawyers can help you act promptly since you can lose your right to reclaim the goods if you fail to demand recovery within ten days or if the customer sells the goods.
Before selling to a customer whose financial condition is doubtful, ask us to help you take action to protect your right to collect. We may suggest precautionary measures, such as taking a security interest, or utilizing collateral, or keeping legal title to the merchandise until you have been paid in full.
HANDLING FULL PAYMENT CHECKS
Sometimes a customer pays an account with a check for less than the amount due on the accounts and writes “payment in full” on the back of the check. Your company’s credit and collection policies should instruct employees to contact us before depositing such “payment in full” check. In some cases, endorsing the check with the words, “without prejudice” can preserve your legal rights. In other situations, your right to pursue the unpaid balance of a customer’s debt will be lost if you deposit the check, regardless of how you endorse it. Our NJ debt collection lawyers can analyze the facts, advise whether you should return the check or cash it, and recommend steps to collect the unpaid balance.
LEGAL FEES IN COLLECTION MATTERS
Our New Jersey law firm offers flexible fee arrangements for it’s legal services in collection mattes. For some case, it may be appropriate to pay a contingent fee based on a percentage of the amount collected. In other cases, a flat rate or hourly fee might be best. Sometimes we may suggest a combination of fee arrangements, like a contingent fee combined with a “lump sum” suit fee if it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit. Once you agree on a fee arrangement, our law firm will follow-up with a written retainer agreement to confirm it.
Our lawyers can help you collect more quickly and avoid “writing off” uncollectible bills. Our NJ debt collection attorneyswill help you implement legally effective credit and collection policies, keep you out of lawsuits with out-of-court settlements, and act as your advocate when lawsuits are unavoidable.