It was about 8 o'clock one evening. I was startled when the doorbell rang and a man with a badge was standing in front of my home. The soft-spoken gentleman asked for my husband, after informing me that he was there to serve him papers.
After my spouse came down and signed for whatever-it-was, we rushed inside to open the envelope. To our collective dismay, we discovered that were being sued for $8,000, by a company we had never even heard of.
Looking Through the Paperwork
I began digging through our records. We had never received a single piece of mail from this company, not a single documented phone call or even a smoke signal before this lawsuit showed up on our doorstep. Admittedly, I was a tad perturbed.
I knew that the debt wasn't ours. I had never heard of the original company, the collection agency attached to it or even this attorney who had filed the suit.
First, I looked up the filing attorney online. I found out that he was nothing more than the equivalent to an ambulance chaser for collection agencies. He marketed himself as "pit bull", claiming that he would "make their clients pay their bill" by using and abusing the court system as a scare tactic.
After reading all of this, I was in no mood to fool around. We needed a lawyer.
I jumped on Avvo and found an attorney in Houston who had dealt with this attorney in the past. When I looked at his reviews, I saw that almost all of the cases he defended were dismissed post lawsuit. We called him up, and paid him a $1,250 retainer fee to get this debt gone for good.
What I Learned About the Legal Side
Our attorney explained that collection agencies had gotten particularly aggressive since the credit crash, and that many of them were suing folks left and right. He went on to say that the companies were usually successful in negotiating a settlement with scared consumers, once these attorneys involved the courts.
And it didn't mean much to the attorneys to do it either, since it only costs about $30 to file paperwork. Essentially this collection agency pit bull was taking a gamble. He thought he could win. There was only one problem in our case: we had no intention of paying a debt we didn't owe.
Our lawyer did the legwork, disputed the debt for us, filed a response to the lawsuit and showed up in court for the April trial date that the plaintiff (the collection agency required).
It was then that the most amazing thing happened: The plaintiff (or their attorney) didn't even bother showing up.
Dismissed without Prejudice
Two weeks later, I got a letter from the court regarding our case, and all I cared about were the four words at the bottom of it: "case dismissed without prejudice."
Collection agencies today might be playing dirty, but when the cost of hiring a competent attorney was less than the amount of the debt they claimed we owed, it was worth every penny we paid to make debt go away for good. I guess, in this case, our gamble paid off better than theirs did.
*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.
More from this contributor: