By far, the highest number of inquiries that we receive at our firm are in regards to Bank Account Garnishment. What is a garnishment? Garnishment is a seizure of monies/assets while the monies/assets are still in the control of another person or entity, like a bank. In other words, the creditor is seeking to obtain monies (that you allegedly owe to them) from a third party.
A bank account garnishment cannot occur on a credit card case UNTIL a judgment is entered against you. In order for that to happen, you have to be sued, served with a lawsuit, and then LOSE. Many people call our office and are fearful of having their bank account garnished because the collector made such a threat. Think about it, why would the collector bother to call you if it could garnish your wages? Why waste the time? Just go ahead and do the garnishment, right? The key here is to not allow the collection agency to obtain the judgment in the first place. This means that you have to defend the lawsuit by hiring a consumer attorney. If the company who is trying to collect is a junk debt buyer, then the odds of them obtaining a judgment are very slim (again, assuming that you hire a competent consumer attorney). Do not ignore the lawsuit!
In Pennsylvania, even if you do lose the lawsuit, a bank account garnishment cannot be commenced against a spousal joint bank account unless the creditor obtains a judgment against both spouses (very rare in credit card cases). The reason for this is because the credit card account that you’re being sued on almost certainly was only in one spouse’s name. A creditor can only sue the account owner. If you and your spouse share a credit account then most likely one of you is the owner and the other is what is called an “authorized user”. To repeat, spousal joint accounts are protected from garnishments unless the creditor is able to obtain a judgment against both spouses. On the other hand, a joint account with someone who is not your spouse can be garnished (only after a judgment is entered). So be careful about having your name on your kids’ accounts or your parents’ accounts if you are having financial difficulties and are facing a possible lawsuit.
If you have a credit card company or a collection agency attempting to collect a debt from you, or, if you have a specific bank account garnishment question, please contact my office at 412-348-8600 or send an email to Attorney Greg Artim or visit our submit an inquiry here.