Who is Suttell Hammer & White, P.S. and why are they suing me?
That is a question that I get asked very often as a consumer bankruptcy/debt relief attorney. Suttell Hammer & White, if I had to guess is probably the largest debt collection law firm in the state of Washington, although I don’t have specific data on this. The law firm collects on behalf of large banks such as Bank of America or Chase as well as debt buyers such as Midland Funding or Cache, LLC to name a few. The law firm is based in Bellevue, WA and recently with another debt collection law firm, The Law Offices of Krista L. White whom the principal formerly ran the collection department of Bishop, White Marshall and Weibel P.S. (Now just Marshall & Weibel P.S.). The law firm currently consists of 11 attorneys according to their website and has numerous support staff including collection agents ready to take payments from you. They record all conversations and take meticulous notes on every contact and conversation so that everything you tell them will be documented.
Now that you know who is contacting you, the next step is to figure out why and how you can deal with them. Your first contact with this firm will likely be through a letter that you receive in the mail indicating that they are representing a particular client and that you should contact them to make a payment on a debt that they are collecting for. The contact might also be through a debt collection phone call and is subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you don’t take any action then at some point it is likely you will receive or be served with a Summons and Complaint. These are legal documents that indicate that a lawsuit has been filed against you and you will have 20 days to respond from the date of service to avoid having a default judgment being entered against you. It should be noted that many consumers report that they are never served with a summons and complaint from this firm which results in a default judgment so you will want to make sure that you keep tabs on this debt if you receive any correspondence from this law firm. If you get a default judgment entered against you that allows this law firm to garnish your wages, bank accounts or place a lien on your home so you will want to avoid this from happening at all costs. Having a judgment against you can also affect your credit scores and impact your ability to gain favorable credit in the future.
How Should I Handle Debt Being Collected By Suttell Hammer & White?
How you decide to handle debt being collected by Suttell Hammer & White will be determined by your particular situation. For instance if the debt in question is for a small amount and you know you are responsible for the debt you may just want to settle your account with the law firm. Often times these debts can be settled for less than the original balance owed. Obtaining a settlement of 50% or less of the total balance on settlements is not uncommon. Also often times a payment plan can be obtained although the total settlement will probably be higher.
Next if you have other outstanding debts including the Suttell debt and your debt load is over $10K then you may want to speak to an attorney regarding filing for bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy will stop a debt collector from collecting on a debt immediately. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will eliminate all of your unsecured debt in most cases, while a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will give you a payment plan over 36-60 months to pay on your debts in which you may or may not have to pay the full amount back depending on your income and family size.
If your goal is simply to buy some time in which to obtain funds to settle or file bankruptcy and you have already been served with a summons and complaint then it is advisable to file an answer to the summons and complaint. The answer must be filed in the court where your law suit is and a copy sent to the law firm as well. The answer outlines all of your defenses and responses to the allegations in the complaint. Filing an answer will help you avoid a default judgment and allow for you to buy time and force the law firm to produce paperwork from the original creditor showing you owe the debt. If you do file an answer, it is likely that Suttell at some point in the next couple of months will file a motion for summary judgment stating that they have evidence that you owe the debt and that they should win their case. If you don’t have a valid defense to these allegations you will want to settle your case or file bankruptcy to avoid further attorney fee’s and interest being entered against you. If for some reason you have let a judgment get entered against you and you need to stop a wage garnishment a bankruptcy can always be filed after the fact and any wages taken within 90 days of the bankruptcy filing may be returned to you.
If you live in Washington State and have received a letter or a legal summons and complaint from Suttell Hammer & White and have questions about it, give Symmes Law Group a call at 206-682-7975 to learn about your options. If you would like to learn how to deal with Suttell Hammer & White on your own check out my online debt collection response course complete with sample materials and forms.