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Maverick, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 6392
Experience:  20 years experience as a civil trial and appellate lawyer
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I have an outstanding debt from when I attended a University

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I have an outstanding debt from when I attended a University MBA program in Nebraska. I contested the invoice, because I believe I was billed for an additional semester that I had paid for previously.
The account was sent to collections, which resulted in being passed to an attorney's office. I have been paying on the account monthly since 2009. I would like to settle up, but am finding it difficult to deal with them, especially since there are 3 separate entities. The University actually is being very cooperative, and I would have no issue just paying the amount directly to them.
Just looking for someone to inform me of a strategy, options, rights, well as a way to gain the upper hand in settling this matter.

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My first suggestion is that you contact the university directly by letter and inform them how you feel about the collection agency and law firm that they hired. Since you are not a lawyer, you can still contact them directly even though they may have retained counsel. You can carbon copy the collection agency and the lawyer on your letter to the university.

It is possible that the university sold the debt to the collection agency and is not now, for one reason or another, able to call the debt back for direct collection from you.

If that is the case, then you should deal with the law firm directly. Depending on what you have at risk by the way of non exempt assets (see list below if you still live in Nebraska) you may be able to explain in your letter that you really do not own much by the way of non exempt assets that they could take from you even if they sued you and got a judgment and that it is in their best interest to work with you on the debt.

I know this says bankruptcy exemptions but from looking at the statutes, they appear to apply even if you do not file bankruptcy.

As far as whether they are violating any debt collection laws, the fair debt collection practices act prohibits attorneys and debt collectors from using undue harassment and other unethical practices when collection debt. I am not sure of the facts of your case, but, for example, a debt collector may not contact you at unreasonable times or places, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree. A debt collector also may not contact you at work if the collector knows that your employer disapproves.

Let me know if this helps or you need some more clarification. Would be happy to assist you further.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thank you for your timely response. I'm not ungrateful by any means, but don't feel like I got a valid legal answer. I admit, I did not provide you with complete information, which I apologize for. Your referrals are appreciated, however I would like more info:

1) I have contacted the university directly and informed them of the poor customer service I have received from the other parties.

2) There is a discrepancy between the amounts the university is seeking and the collection agency is demanding. about $1,000 difference, which they are claiming is interest charges. Can they charge interest?

3) How do I determine the legal status? Is there a judgment against me or is the law firm threatening a judgment?

4) The account hasn't been sold to the collection agency. They are collecting on behalf of the university. My monthly payments are going directly to the university, apparently, as the university contact I've made has indicated the total of payments they have received matches the total I've paid.

5) In your opinion, is this matter worth hiring an attorney to resolve? Will it potentially save me money on my final payment? Are there ways for me improve my position in negotiating with them?

6) On average, what percentage of consumers fighting collections issues are successful

7) I have been informed by the collection agency that a lawsuit involving a university could potentially be a federal case, and that even if I were to file bankruptcy to avoid the payment completely, the debt would remain unpaid and a judgment could still be filed against me.

1) To this I would just add that you do it in writing if not already done so and ask if you can deal with them directly going forward.

2) They can charge interest in two possible ways: one, if your tuition contract or a condition of admittance to the university (i.e. admission guidelines) indicate that terms for payment of tuition and they also provide for interest at a specified rate, and two, if they sue you and get a judgment, they can ask for pre and post judgment interest at the statutory rate established by your state.

3) Before there could be a judgment against you, they would have to sue you and serve you with suit papers. If that has not happened then they are threatening a suit followed by a judgment. This is why arguing that your are judgment proof can be your leverage --they will opt to save legal fees once they are confident that you do not have and will not likely in the near future have exempt assets (if that is in fact the case).

4) Okay, that means that they could call off the collections agency and the lawyer which would likely save them collection fees if they have not signed a term based contract with either (unlikely though).

5) If you truly owe the money as per some written tuition contract, hiring an attorney is not likely to help you much as your legal defenses are limited. In debt negotiations, the best way I found to improve negotiations is to convince the creditor that they better take what they can get or else risk getting nothing since you have nothing. Whether this is an argument that can help you depends on your personal financial status. If there were complex legal issues such as fraud, misrepresentation, negligence, etc. then having an attorney may be of some use. Much really depends on what type of legal defenses you believe you have based on the facts.

6) That is hard to answer as there is no way to define successful. But if you are asking whether they can get money shaved off the original balance, I would say at least 50% or better given the current state of the economy. The last thing these creditors want to do is watch you drag them through a bankruptcy or have to spend money on legal fees to get a judgment that is nothing more than a worthless piece of paper.

7) Just because it may be a federal case does not determine whether the debt can be discharged. It may be a federal case if, for example you live in a different state than the creditor university. Now, if the school gave you a loan, then you may have a hard time getting the student loan discharged and for this reason, you may also have a hard time negotiating away the debt. If, however, they allowed you to attend class on your credit without signing a promissory note and later tried to collect, that may be discharged in bankruptcy.

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