Debt collection is best done on your own terms.
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway; when it comes to resolving a commercial debt collection dispute, do whatever you can to avoid litigation. In cases where litigation is inevitable, it’s important to know what to expect.
Litigation is a lengthy process
The entire process of litigation is a series of fits-and-starts. To make matters worse, the financial situation of your debtor can deteriorate during the process. Take a look at the following legal flow. Each of the wait days listed is just an approximate but a generally reasonable estimation of the time it will take to get through each of the stages.
The following is by no means a complete list of the stages you may go through. Snags at any point, like stall tactics or a counter claim, can change the trajectory entirely and add months or even years to your process. But this list will give you a little peek at what you could be facing.
• Attorney review, make demand, prepare suit: 30 days
• Serve the debtor: 15 – 45 days if served on first attempt, 60 – 90 days if more attempts are necessary
• File/Receive default Judgment if debtor does not answer suit: 60-150 days then proceed to Execution Stage
• File/Decision for Summary Judgment if debtor does answer suit: 90-120 days
• If Summary Judgment Denied then Continue Discovery, Mediation, wait for Trial date: 90 -120 days
• Judgment Granted/Appeal: 60 days
• Execution if assets identified: 60 – 120 days
• Post Judgment Discovery if assets not identified: 60-120 days then Execution once assets identified
Assuming the debtor has identifiable assets and if a default judgment route is an option, the process can still take 9 months to a year to complete. If you go to trial, the best-case scenario will probably take about a year and half.
It would be very difficult to keep this post a reasonable length if we were to outline ALL the possible ways litigation can be delayed. Every action or inaction on your debtor’s part can add its own set of paperwork and delays. But here’s the thing: no matter what comes your way in litigation, at the end of the process, you’ll STILL be negotiating.
So, we’re back to our original advice – work with your debtor every way possible to come to a resolution BEFORE you consider litigation. At C2C, we work diligently with our clients to collect without involving legal, but if litigation becomes necessary, we don’t increase your contingency rate when we forward your account to an attorney.
In the end, if you should find yourself saddled with a customer who won’t pay and litigation is in your future, you’ll benefit from a Collection Agency that will manage this process for you. They’ll follow up and make sure the attorney makes your account a priority, which usually keeps the process moving along.
How about you? Have you gone through the litigation process? Tell us about your experience. Post a comment!