What Is the Statute of Limitations on Debt in Washington?

George Simons

March 04, 2021

When you get a call from a debt collector... or an ex.

Summary: Have an old Washington State debt that won't seem to go away? Find out if the statute of limits expired and your responsibility to repay is over.

Past mistakes can often come back to haunt us. Sometimes it's an old flame calling you up again, and sometimes it's an old debt that you forgot to pay many years ago. You're on your own with the old flame, but if you're being sued over a debt in Washington state here's what you need to know.

If your debt is from many years ago you need to identify the statute of limitations to determine if you can even be sued. Keep in mind that if you made a couple of payments after you defaulted — failed to repay the debt by missing or stopping payments — you might have reset the clock on your statute of limitations. Let's take a closer look at the statute of limitations laws in Washington and see what you can do to stop that old creditor from shaking you down.

What do I need to know about the statute of limitations?

A statute of limitations is the period of time that a creditor or lender can legally file a lawsuit to collect a debt. If a creditor wants the money owed to be paid back, they only have an allotted number of years to sue. Otherwise, they are free to continue to reach out through calls or letters requesting payment, but they won't be able to get a court-ordered judgment to collect the debt.

Not all debts are created equal. The statute of limitations can vary significantly depending on the type of debt. Each state has its own outlined laws determining the statute of limitations on each kind of debt. Even if you're no longer living in the same state, you'll want to make sure you find out the statute of limitations laws for the state where the debt originated.

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What Are The Different Categories of Debts in Washington?

Washington Statute of Limitations
on Debt

Debt Type

Deadline in Years

Written

6

Oral

3

Auto

4

State Tax

4

Credit Cards

6

Open Accounts

6

Judgments

10


Source: Findlaw



In the state of Washington, there are seven different categories of debt. Each type has a prescriptive period — how long a creditor has to file a collection lawsuit. The statute of limitations outlines the prescriptive period.

Once you've reviewed the different types of debt, you'll need to determine if your creditor is still within their rights to file the lawsuit. If you think the statute of limitations on your debt has expired, you're going to want to file a response.

These are the various types of debts you can encounter and how long a creditor has to file a collection lawsuit.

Written Contracts – 6 years

A written contract is an extremely common type of debt that encompasses a wide range of agreements, including medical debt. These signed agreements clearly outline the nature of the debt and the amount owed, and it should note the date when the debt began. The creditor has six years from that date to file a collection lawsuit if you fail to pay.

Oral Agreements, Unwritten and Implied Contracts – 3 years

There can be cases where a contract is created without a physical contract being signed. These verbal or implied agreements are held to a different standard than written contracts. For this type of debt, the statute of limitations allows for only three years from when you stopped paying for the creditor to file a collection lawsuit.

Auto Loan – 4 years

Another common type of debt is an auto loan. While these types of loans are technically written contracts, the state of Washington has outlined a different statute of limitations for car loans. In this case, a creditor only has four years from the default date to be able to legally sue for that debt.

State Tax Debt – 4 years

If you owe Washington state an outstanding debt on your taxes, the creditor has four years from the date of default to file a collection lawsuit.

Credit Cards – 6 years

For credit card accounts opened in Washington, the creditor has six years to file a collection lawsuit against the debtor in case of an outstanding balance on the card.

Open Accounts – 6 years

An open account is a broad category of debts that are often referred to as accounts payable. This type of debt can also include trade lines of credit. Often, an open account is referring to an outstanding payment to a vendor or contractor for their provided services. The statute of limitations in this category is six years for the creditor to file a collection lawsuit against the debtor.

Recovery of Property and Judgments – 10 years

In the state of Washington, a judgment may be referring to a bond or recognizance. Recovery of any seized property also falls under his category of debt. In this case, the statute of limitations allows for 10 years from when the judgment is entered for the creditor to take legal action against the debtor.

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What To Do With A Time-Barred Debt

If you've been served a lawsuit from a debt collector for a forgotten debt from ages ago, the first thing you'll need to do is determine if the debt is time-barred. This means that the prescriptive period determined by the statute of limitations has expired. If the creditor files the lawsuit outside of this predetermined time frame, their lawsuit will not be legally enforceable.

However, this does not mean that the debt is forgiven. You will still owe the creditor the agreed-upon amount in your contract. A time-barred debt simply means that a court cannot get involved to enforce payment. The creditor can and will likely continue to attempt to contact you to collect the debt.

If a creditor has filed a lawsuit against you for a debt that you believe is time-barred, it is imperative that you let the court know that the prescriptive period as determined by Washington's statute of limitations has lapsed when you file your official Answer.

How Does Tolling Affect The Statutes of Limitations?

One factor to keep in mind when determining if your debt is time-barred is tolling. This pauses the time during the prescriptive period. Tolling occurs when you request additional time to pay your debt or if you begin paying back your debt after a default.

For example, if you default on a credit card, the creditor has six years to file a collection lawsuit. Let's say after a year of your collector chasing you down you start making small payments. The six-year timer stops. If you stop making those payments once again, the prescriptive period restarts at zero.

Being consistently hounded by debt collectors, particularly for debts created many years ago, can be extremely frustrating. With the above information, you should be able to quickly assess the status of your debt in Washington and be on your way to fighting your collection lawsuit.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

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