Using the Court System to Collect Funds Owed to You

Attempting to collect a debt owed to you can be frustrating, and often, it can be an exercise in futility.  Often, you will be faced with the question of whether you should hire an attorney to assist in the collection of the debt, or whether you can attempt to collect it on your own.

Debt collection attorneys

Hiring an attorney to help in the collection of a debt can be helpful, and it can also help you avoid potentially violating fair debt collection practices laws that have been enacted as a result of over-aggressive debt collectors.  There are several federal acts, and most states have also adopted laws that set boundaries on how debt can be collected.

However, the downside to hiring an attorney is that (a) it can be costly up front if an attorney is unwilling to take the case on a contingency basis, and (b) it doesn’t seem fair to have to give away a portion of the money already owed to you to someone else who helps you collect it.  For these reasons, if it seems implausible that an attorney will not be able to collect attorney’s fees and costs on top of the amount owed, or if you are unwilling to pay to have someone help in the collection of the debt, then you may want to attempt to collect the debt on your own.

Small claims courts

Most jurisdictions have a small claims court system that allow non-attorney litigants an avenue to pursue the collection of a debt on their own.  The rules of procedure and evidence are normally more informal and lax in these courts than in the normal civil court system. However, the major legal concepts still apply, including  the applicable statute of limitations and the concepts of subject matter and personal jurisdiction and venue, etc. Additionally, the jurisdiction of these courts are limited and have a maximum amount you can seek, exclusive if interest and costs.  Check with your local small claims court to determine whether you would be eligible to file your claim there.

Before attempting to do this on your own, or before giving up on the collection of the debt, you may want to consider that hiring an attorney may be the best option, if an attorney is willing to take your case.  In the end, if you end up collecting anything on the debt, it may be considered better than collecting nothing.

For these reasons, it is often best to contact a Little Rock lawyer to help you through a situation like this to (1) help you through the process and (2) to maximize your benefits to ensure all of debts are appropriately compensated.   


Thanks to Steve Harrelson and our friends and co-contributors from Harrelson Law Firm, P.A. for their added insight into the debt collection litigation.