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LEGAL TERMS

COLLECTION AGENCY

A company hired by a creditor to collect a debt that it is owed. Creditors typically hire a collection agency only after they have made efforts to collect the d... (more...)
A company hired by a creditor to collect a debt that it is owed. Creditors typically hire a collection agency only after they have made efforts to collect the debt themselves, typically through letters (called 'dunning' letters) and telephone calls. Collection agencies are regulated by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Unfortunately, too many collectors ignore this law.

SUBROGATION

A taking on of the legal rights of someone whose debts or expenses have been paid. For example, subrogation occurs when an insurance company that has paid off i... (more...)
A taking on of the legal rights of someone whose debts or expenses have been paid. For example, subrogation occurs when an insurance company that has paid off its injured claimant takes the legal rights the claimant has against a third party that caused the injury, and sues that third party.

UNSECURED DEBT

A debt that is not tied to any item of property. A creditor doesn't have the right to grab property to satisfy the debt if you default. The creditor's only reme... (more...)
A debt that is not tied to any item of property. A creditor doesn't have the right to grab property to satisfy the debt if you default. The creditor's only remedy is to sue you and get a judgment. Compare secured debt.

FAIR DEBT COLLECTIONS & PRACTICES ACT (FDCPA)

A federal law that outlaws unfair debt collection practices, including lying, harassing, misleading and otherwise abusing debtors, by debt collectors working fo... (more...)
A federal law that outlaws unfair debt collection practices, including lying, harassing, misleading and otherwise abusing debtors, by debt collectors working for collection agencies. The law does not apply to creditors collecting their own debts. This law has greatly improved conditions for debtors, although more than a few debt collectors ignore the law. If a collection agency violates the law, debtors can contact the Federal Trade Commission for help.

CREDITOR

A person or entity (such as a bank) to whom a debt is owed.

LOSS DAMAGE WAIVER (LDW)

Rental car insurance that makes the rental car company responsible for damage to or theft of a rental car. This insurance is a major consumer ripoff, as it ofte... (more...)
Rental car insurance that makes the rental car company responsible for damage to or theft of a rental car. This insurance is a major consumer ripoff, as it often duplicates coverage provided by the renter's regular car insurance and/or the credit card she uses to rent the car. Nevertheless, hard-sell practices by rental car agents often dupe people into buying LDWs they don't really need. LDW is also called 'collision damage waiver.'

BANKRUPTCY TRUSTEE

A person appointed by the court to oversee the case of a person or business that has filed for bankruptcy. In a consumer Chapter 7 case, the trustee's role is t... (more...)
A person appointed by the court to oversee the case of a person or business that has filed for bankruptcy. In a consumer Chapter 7 case, the trustee's role is to gather the debtor's nonexempt property, liquidate it and distribute it proportionally to her creditors. In a Chapter 13 case, the trustee's role is to receive the debtor's monthly payments and distribute them proportionally to her creditors.

SOLE PROPRIETORSHIP

A business owned and managed by one person (or for tax purposes, a husband and wife). For IRS purposes, a sole proprietor and her business are one tax entity, m... (more...)
A business owned and managed by one person (or for tax purposes, a husband and wife). For IRS purposes, a sole proprietor and her business are one tax entity, meaning that business profits are reported and taxed on the owner's personal tax return. Setting up a sole proprietorship is cheap and easy since no legal formation documents need be filed with any governmental agency (although tax registration and other permit and license requirements may still apply). Once you file a fictitious name statement (assuming you don't use your own name) and obtain any required basic tax permits and business licenses, you'll be in business. The main downside of a sole proprietorship is that its owner is personally liable for all business debts.

GARNISHMENT

A court-ordered process that takes property from a person to satisfy a debt. For example, a person who owes money to a creditor may have her wages garnished if ... (more...)
A court-ordered process that takes property from a person to satisfy a debt. For example, a person who owes money to a creditor may have her wages garnished if she loses a lawsuit filed by the creditor. Up to 25% of a person's wages can be deducted.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Eaves v. Unifund CCR Partners

... Tommy L. Eaves appeals the jury's verdict against him in Unifund CCR Partners ("Unifund Partners") suit to collect unpaid credit-card debt. We affirm. BACKGROUND. Citibank issued an AT & T credit card to Eaves, and Eaves made purchases with the card. ...

Dulong v. Citibank (South Dakota), NA

... 892 OPINION. Opinion by Justice RICHTER. This case involves a traditional summary judgment in a credit card debt collection matter. Citibank (South Dakota), NA ("Citibank") sued Donna Dulong to recover the balance owed on a credit card (the "Credit Card"). ...

Martinez v. Midland Credit Management, Inc.

... denied), argued that Midland was not entitled to proceed on a sworn account theory to recover a credit card debt. At the hearing on Martinez's Motion for New Trial, Midland argued that its claim was one for breach of contract. ...