If you fail to make a payment on a debt and go into default, the creditor has a right to bring suit against you to collect. But how long do they have to do this? Is it ever too late? Is the debt ever too old to sue on? Yes, it can be, and here is how you can tell!

The time to bring suit in New Jersey on a credit card debt or medical bill is limited to six (6) years, while a contract strictly for the sale of goods is four (4). Therefore, if enough time has passed, without you making any payments, the creditor may not be able to collect at all.

So How Can I Tell If It's Too Old? If you get a demand letter from a creditor, especially if it is one that you do not recognize, do the following:

  • respond in writing within thirty (30) days of receipt demanding verification of debt. Under federal law, the factor is required to identify the original creditor.
  • Check to see if that original creditor is still listed on any of your three credit reports (Experian, Transunion, or Equifax). If it is not, it may be too old to report, and thus too old to sue for collection. If it is, it might still be more than six (6) years old.
  • Check your own records to make sure that you have not made any payments to this creditor in the past six (6) years that might reset the clock on the statute.

At the very least, if that creditor should sue you, you should file an answering pleading and assert a statute of limitations defense.  If you are correct about the timing, the claim could be barred by the court!

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.