If a creditor accuses you of not paying a debt, they can file a lawsuit against you in civil court to obtain a judgment against you. A judgment can have serious effects, as it can lead to wage garnishment and can significantly lower your credit score. For these reasons, you want to defend against a creditor judgment whenever possible and an experienced attorney can help you identify any possible defenses in your case.
One common defense is that the creditor filed the lawsuit after the statute of limitations had expired. A statute of limitations is a deadline for filing a particular legal claim and Florida law sets out different time limits for different types of legal actions. The Florida statutes of limitations that may apply to a creditor claim are as follows:
- Debt based on a written contract – 5 years
- Debt based on a verbal agreement – 4 years
The existence of these statutes of limitations does not stop many creditors and collection companies from continuing to file lawsuits against you after the deadline has passed. Most creditors hope that the debtor will not respond to the lawsuit, which will result in a default judgment.
Your Rights if the Statute of Limitations has Expired
In any creditor claim against you, you should always examine whether the statute of limitations has run. If it has, you can request that the claim be dismissed and, if the court agrees, the creditor loses the right to collect on that particular debt because they waited too long.
In addition, trying to collect a debt after the statute of limitations is considered to be abusive behavior under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This means that beyond having the case dismissed, you can actually file your own claim against the creditor to hold them liable for abusive practices.