American Express is the most well known creditor in the United States and around the world. They have always been very aggressive in debt collection and in suing consumers and small businesses quickly when a default occurs. In order to best defend against them, a few simple steps must be taken but it is also very important to see which collection law firm is representing Amex in order to put a strategy in place. In New York, American Express is frequently represented by Zwicker and Associates, Relin Goldstein and Crane and by American Express Legal, their in-house attorneys. In New Jersey, we also see Doyle and Hoefs representing them amongst the other firms.
SUBMIT AN ANSWER WITH AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES
This first step is most important as it will prevent a default judgment which is most common in these situations. A default judgment often happens because a consumer or business is not served properly and is not aware of the lawsuit. The judgment usually leads to a bank levy or wage garnishment along with accruing judgment interest at 9% which is the New York Rate. More importantly, the answer keeps the burden on American Express to prove their case.
American Express has to provide proof that they own the debt or that it was properly transferred to them. They also have to prove that the amount due is correct and proper. Usually they provide card agreements and statements to show this.
Since American Express is usually the original creditor in these matters they have most if not all of the documents to prove their case unlike in many debt-buyer cases. Unless it is a matter of identity theft, or Amex doesn’t have any discovery documents it makes sense to leverage the litigation this far and negotiate a settlement. This is why it is important to understand which law firm you are dealing with.
PRESENT HARDSHIP AND PAYMENT TERMS
American Express has always been tough to negotiate with as their standard range for settlement has been about 40%-55% off of the total debt. However, factors such as financial and medical hardship are always necessary to present if they are relevant because it can help reduce the total settlement. Additionally, paying in lump sum will always produce a better deal than a longer term repayment plan. Importantly, we have seen that American Express is willing to offer some lower settlements because of the Covid Crisis. We have recently seen settlements that reduce the debt by up to 75% off.