Who is West Asset Management?
It’s not surprising that you have never heard of West Asset Management, in fact you are probably reading this article because you have no idea who they are or why they have filed a lawsuit against you. West Corporation is one of the largest debt buyers in the United States. This company buys debts for pennies on the dollar from companies across many types of businesses including healthcare, financial, and utilities to name a few. The debt sellers in this case have determined that it will cost them more money to try and collect on the debt themselves rather than sell your debt to a third party debt collector such as West Asset Management. Once West Asset Management has purchased a debt they may hire a third party debt collection company to send out collection letters or call consumers or they may hire a debt collection law firm such as Suttell & Hammer, Nelson & Kennard, Machol & Johannes or Patenaude & Felix to file a lawsuit against you in an attempt to collect on a debt. Unfortunately for West Asset Management and many other third party debt buyers, the information that they purchase from major banks only includes a spreadsheet of information with consumers information. It is very possible that West Asset Management cannot produce original contracts signed or any proof that you actually owe on a debt. Further, if West Asset Management shows up on your credit report it is likely that they will not be able to validate that you owe a debt in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and therefore any negative reporting must be removed from your credit upon a request for validation. Of course any debts that are properly validated would remain on your credit.
In reality, West Asset Management, Inc. is simply a subsidiary of a large corporate called West Corp. located in Omaha Nebraska who is involved in many different industries. West Asset Management employs 1,500 debt collectors in 13 states and one offshore location. West Asset Management has numerous complaints floating around the internet and in 2011 West Asset Management agreed to pay consumers a record $2.8 Million for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for actions that included telling consumers that they would be arrested if they didn’t pay on their debts. In most states debtors cannot go to jail for not paying on most types of debts.
Now that you know who West Asset Management is, the next step is to figure out how you can deal with them. Your first contact with this company will likely be through a letter that you receive in the mail from a third party debt collector or debt collection law firm indicating that they represent West Asset Management who has purchased your debt and that you should contact them to make a payment on a debt that they are collecting for. 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 is likely that your case will have been filed in the county in which you live in either the superior or district court. Also be on the look out for any case filed against you without a case number. If your case does not have a case number, you still must respond to the complaint to avoid a default judgment being entered against you. However if there is no case number you have a better chance of the law firm not pursuing the collection in the near future since they have to incur more fee’s in which to actually file your case at the court house. If anything at least filing an answer will buy you some time.
If you get a default judgment entered against you, that allows West Asset Management to garnish your wages, bank accounts or place a lien on your home. 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 On By West Asset Management?
How you decide to handle debt being collected by West Asset Management 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 company attempting to collect on the debt. 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. The option to pay to have a negative item deleted on your credit may also be available but always make sure you get any settlements in writing.
Next if you have other outstanding debts including the West Asset Management 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 West Asset Management 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. At this point the law firm would be required to actually produce such evidence. 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. Otherwise you have the option to continue in litigation and see if the company will produce evidence that you owe on a debt and a court will determine whether West Asset Management has standing to collect on the debt. Often times third party debt collectors cannot produce such documentation but the only way to find out for sure is to see your case to the end, often ending with a trial. If for some reason you have let a default 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 West Asset Management 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 West Asset Management on your own check out my online debt collection response course complete with sample materials and forms that you can use to negotiate a settlement or dispute items on your credit report.