For Debtors:

* When negotiating settlements with opposing parties, a collections attorney can avoid expensive litigation and allow you to settle your claim at a fraction of the cost.

* Upon retaining counsel, federal law requires that all debt collectors cease contacting you and deal directly with your attorney. Obtaining an experienced collections attorney can give you peace of mind while your attorney either defends you, or works with debt-collectors, to obtain a favorable resolution.

* You have the right to demand and obtain written verification of any alleged debt so long as you do so within the initial days after a collector contacts you. When that request is made, in writing, all collection efforts must cease while the debt is verified. If it has been beyond 30 days, most collectors will still provide verification as a courtesy.

* Be careful about making a payment over the phone: 1) A debt-collector can use a payment to open up a debt that may no longer be collectible due to the statute of limitations (in most states, including Washington, this is 6 years for credit cards). Put differently, making a payment after e.g. many years, renews the statute of limitation all over again and takes away a winning defense that otherwise saves you the thousands of dollars you owe

* Despite potential assurances of a debt collector, without a signed, written record, you may find yourself continually obligated to pay a debt even after a so-called "settlement."

For Creditors:

* A business that has a primary interest in third party debt collection is governed by state law and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. §1692). Among other things, the FDCPA has strict communication rules when speaking to a debtor.

* The law on debt-collection is frequently changing. Make sure your policies and scripts are reviewed regularly by for compliance with all local and federal rules.

* A collections attorney can also represent a collections firm in court if and when a debtor engages a legal proceeding against a third-party debt collector.