Seattle Commercial Collections Attorney Chris Thayer
Seattle Commercial Collections Attorney Chris Thayer
Fast, Efficient Collection of Business and Personal Debts in the Seattle Area and Throughout Washington Since 1995

My name is Chris Thayer, and I am a partner in a downtown Seattle law firm, Pivotal Law Group. My practice is limited to Washington State, and part of what I do is help businesses and individuals in the greater Seattle-Tacoma-Everett area, and across Washington State, to collect on past due payment obligations, whether those debts arise out of an ongoing business, relationship, a contract or an isolated business transaction.

I am here to help you.

Call for a free consultation (206) 340-2008

Seattle Commercial Collections Attorney Chris Thayer

Seattle Commercial Collections Attorney Chris Thayer Every business faces the challenge of deciding how to deal with delinquent accounts or customers that are in default. On this website, I will help provide some information and basic insights on methods that can help businesses manage their accounts receivable and provide tools and additional leverage in the event that it becomes necessary to refer the matter out for litigation. Using a law firm to help collect your delinquent receivables or other debts sends a powerful message to your customers or clients. They will know that you mean business. Referring your collections to an experienced Seattle commercial collections attorney, lets you focus on your business, while we turn up the heat and help you collect on your delinquent accounts. If you need assistance collecting on a commercial debt or suing for breach of a contract in the greater Seattle area, please contact me for a free initial consultation and case evaluation.

An Aggressive but Professional Approach to Commercial Collections

Prospective clients often tell me they are looking for an “aggressive” attorney, a real “junk yard dog” with a “take no prisoners” approach. In my practice, I believe that aggression needs to be tempered with reasonableness, practicality and professionalism. Sometimes an aggressive strategy is the best tactic, while in other cases, in order to maintain customer relations or to maximize recovery, a firm but courteous approach may be more favorable. The approach for your case will be tailored to your specific situation and designed to maximize the likelihood that you will get the money you are owed while at the same time maintaining good relations with your customers and clients whenever possible. I will also work with your Accounts Receivable department to help develop and implement customized collection plans and procedures that will help your business collect on outstanding accounts receivable. If necessary, I will take legal action seeking to obtain a judgment to help collect any outstanding debt. I have extensive experience in commercial litigation, including collection actions, and in the methods, procedures and tactics that can be employed in post-judgment collection actions to help maximize the funds you receive.

Five Reasons to hire Seattle Commercial Collections Attorney Chris Thayer

I can help you or your business collect on a personal debt or commercial debt arising out of a variety of circumstances. I have been practicing law since 1994 and have extensive experience in helping clients collect on debts in the greater Seattle area. I have the knowledge and experience to help you effectively collect on your debt. Here are five reasons to hire me to help you with your commercial collections:

  1. Experienced. This is not my first time around the block. I have extensive experience in helping clients collect on their debts. I am familiar with the laws and procedures in Washington, so I can act quickly and provide prompt legal advice on how best to proceed in any given circumstances.
  2. Status Updates. Once you have retained me on a particular project or file, you will receive periodic updates to inform you of all significant events in your case as it progresses. These updates can be provided in the format of your choosing: letter, fax, electronic mail or phone call.
  3. Answers to your questions. If you have questions about how to proceed on a certain account, I have the experience and know-how to help you decide the best course of action. You will be able to reach me and talk to me directly. In most circumstances, your calls or emails will be returned the same day, or within 24 hours whenever possible.
  4. No cookie cutter solutions. I will give your case individual attention and review. My office will help formulate the best possible course of action after consulting with you to understand your situation and your needs.
  5. Cost effective and competitive rates. My office will pursue your case in the most cost effective manner possible. At the outset of your case, I will help set up a budget for each stage of the anticipated process. Normally my time is billed at an hourly rate, but, under certain circumstances, flat rates or other fee arrangements are possible.

Legal Services Offered

Here is a partial list of the services that my staff and I can help you with:

Commercial Debts and Commercial Collections

Commercial Debts and Commercial Collections What is a commercial debt? A commercial debt arises where a person or business loans or owes money to another person or business, so long as it is not what is considered consumer debt, which is defined in Washington as debt that is primarily for consumer, family or household purposes. So, generally speaking, if it is not consumer debt, it is commercial debt. All business to business (B2B) debt is considered commercial debt. Commercial debt can include: loans, promissory notes, accounts, contracts, purchase and sale agreements, vendor contracts, invoices, financing agreements, security agreements, work orders, leases, and a variety of other business agreements. Generally these debts will be evidenced by a written contract or agreement, though I can also help clients collect on oral contracts. Note that, under certain circumstances, oral agreements will not be enforceable under Washington law. I fight to collect business debts for businesses and individuals throughout the Seattle-Tacoma-Everett area and across the State of Washington. We will file suit, investigate the defendant, engage in discovery, track down assets, and execute a judgment, when possible. To get advice about commercial collections, contact me for a free initial consultation.

10 Things You Can Do To Help Your Business Improve Its Collections

There are several basic steps that businesses can take which will not only help improve collectability of their accounts, but can also provide more leverage if the matter is referred to an attorney to pursue a lawsuit.

  1. Use a detailed and comprehensive credit application for all customers.
    If you are extending credit to the customer, which includes providing products or services without receiving payment in advance, make sure you ask the right questions first. Make sure that your credit application requests detailed information about the potential customer as well as personal contact information for the owner(s) of any business applicant, their home address, social security number, date of birth, and credit references that include contact information. If the customer is a corporation, limited liability company, partnership or other form of business entity, ask for the names and contact information for all owners and officers. Make sure you are clear who the customer is in your application: is it the individual or is it a company? If it is a business, ensure that you know whether it is a sole proprietorship, corporation, limited liability company, partnership or some other form of business entity. It is essential to clearly establish who is liable for the obligation.
  2. Follow up with references and do your due diligence.
    Contact the potential customer’s references to find out if there are any “red flags”. Ask around the industry and search public records and the internet for any complaints or causes for concern about the potential customer. If the customer is a business, check with the Washington State Secretary of State corporations division to verify whether the customer is registered to do business in Washington. You may also want to check with the Washington State Department of Licensing to verify the customer has a valid business license and to verify any trade names. If it is a large transaction, you may want to perform and asset check or background search.
  3. Retain all correspondence.
    Oftentimes the discussions, including email and correspondence leading up to the execution of a contract can be very helpful in a subsequent lawsuit when attempting to determine the meaning of the contract and the parties’ intent. In addition, any emails or letters that relate to any disputes may help clarify issues prior to litigation and may streamline the collection process. Set up a file for each customer and make a point of saving all emails and letters relating to that customer in a separate file. Follow up any telephone calls or conversations with a confirming letter or email. They may come in handy later.
  4. Have set and clearly defined payment terms.
    Make sure that your payment terms are set forth in clear language, such as “due and payable within 10 days of the date stated on this invoice.” Provide for late fees and a finance charge for late payments. You may also want to include default interest at an even higher rate for obligations over 90 days past due.
  5. Have a good contract.
    Whether your business uses detailed written contracts or merely invoices for its goods or services, there are a few key terms that should be included in every written agreement with your customer. Any such agreement should include a clause providing for the award of all collection costs, including, but not limited to, attorneys’ fees and costs in the event of a lawsuit to collect the debt. It should also contain default provisions (including interest charges for delinquent payments and any other penalties), a venue clause and a dispute resolution clause. Obviously, each business is unique, each situation needs to be considered on its own facts, and all circumstances and goals of the company need to be reviewed in order to determine the appropriate clauses to include in a given contract or agreement. If you need assistance in reviewing the terms of the form contracts that your company uses, or what all that “fine print” included on the back of your invoices means under Washington law, please contact me, to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced Seattle commercial collections attorney.
  6. Obtain personal guarantees.
    When possible, obtain a personal guaranty from the owner or owners of the customer. This will ensure that, in the event the customer’s business fails, you have the ability to attempt to collect the debt from the owner. This also provides additional leverage if you have a customer who is delinquent on their account. Understandably, business owners who have personally guaranteed debt, are motivated to have their companies pay the debt.
  7. Obtain a security interest.
    Depending on the transaction, it may be reasonable and appropriate to take a security interest in the customer’s assets to help ensure payment. With a properly perfected security interest (if you are in first position) and an appropriate security agreement, you will be able to seek repossession of the collateral in the event of an uncured default. There are certain specific steps that need to be followed to obtain and perfect a security interest, so you should consult with experienced counsel whenever this is a potential issue. If you would like a free initial consultation with an experienced Seattle commercial collections attorney, please contact me to schedule an appointment or phone conference.
  8. Use forbearance agreements.
    A forbearance agreement is an agreement where the creditor and debtor agree that collection activities will cease, so long as the debtor meets certain payment obligations. Often it may be to your advantage to grant the debtor some additional time to pay off the obligation, in return for a specific payment plan and agreed on liquidation remedies. Forbearance agreements can be useful to clear up any issues regarding the debt owed, including documenting the basis for the obligation.
  9. Act quickly and be consistent.
    Your company should set up an agreed on approach for handling accounts receivable, including a timetable for taking specific actions. The longer an amount remains past due, the more difficult it will generally become to collect. Setting up a procedure for following up on delinquent accounts, and sticking to this procedure will save you money in the long run. Send out written reminder notices as soon as an account becomes past due, and follow this up with a personal contact if possible. Remind the debtor of your payment terms, including the fact that collection costs and any default interest provided for in your contract will start accruing now that they are in default. Be polite but persistent.
  10. Don’t hesitate to file a lawsuit when needed.
    There are times when the best course of action is to file a lawsuit and let a court decide the issue. Word will soon get around in your industry to other customers that you are to be taken seriously. I am an experienced trial lawyer and I can help you collect on your commercial debts or contract disputes. If you need assistance collecting on a commercial debt or suing for breach of a contract in the greater Seattle area, please contact me for a free initial consultation and case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What documents will I need in order to prove the claim?

As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, in the context of a commercial collection action, the same is pretty much true regarding the documents that support your claim. This goes not only to the existence of documents (versus oral agreements), but also the quality and content of your contracts, agreements, and other documentation. Some of the typical supporting documentation that can help me evaluate (and ultimately prove) your claim are: credit applications, invoices, delivery receipts, NSF checks, letters, emails, billings, an itemized accounting of amounts owing, payments made and default penalties. Make it a habit to create folders in your email program to save emails sorted by each customer. Even routine emails can be helpful in establishing what is known as a “course of dealing” between you and your customer and this may help fill in any gaps that may exist in your contracts or invoices. Keep in mind that even oral agreements can be enforceable in certain circumstances – although they can be very difficult to prove. If you and a customer reach and oral agreement on an issue, make sure to follow up your conversation with a letter or an email confirming that agreement. That way you will have back up documentation of your oral agreement, which can come in handy in a subsequent dispute. If you have questions about how your company can improve their documentation to help with collections, please contact me to schedule an appointment or phone conference.

Attorneys Fees and Costs: Can you add these collection costs to the amount owing?

Generally speaking, yes, if provided for in the parties’ contract, which can include terms on your invoice or credit agreement. In Washington, a party in a civil action typically has to pay their own attorneys’ fees and costs (even if they win), unless (1) an award of fees is provided for by statute; or (2) the parties have a written agreement (contract) which provides for the award of attorneys’ fees in the event of a dispute. The presence or absence of an attorney fee provision in a written contract can have a huge impact on your leverage and ability to collect. This is because even modest claims can be expensive to collect if the customer disputes the debt or otherwise challenges the collection law suit. As a result, attorneys’ fees and costs have to be a practical consideration for any collection action. As long as there is a properly worded attorney fee provision in your contract or agreement, you will be able to seek to have these fees added to any judgment that is obtained against the debtor.

Can you help individuals collect on debts?

My collections practice generally focuses on representation of business creditors that are owed money by other businesses or individuals. I also help individuals who have loaned money on promissory notes other loan agreements, if there is adequate documentation and the amount in controversy makes it economical to retain an attorney. If you need assistance collecting on a commercial debt or suing for breach of a contract in the greater Seattle area, please contact me for a free initial consultation and case evaluation.

Which is better for my business: hiring a commercial collections attorney, or a collection agency?

That depends. If your business has a high volume of low dollar claims, then it may be economical to refer your business’ delinquent accounts out to a collection agency. However, most collection agencies handle such claims in a “cookie cutter” approach, where all claims are handled the same, regardless of the specifics of your situation and the debtor’s ability to pay. A commercial collection attorney, has the ability to use the legal system and the power and authority of the courts, and can tailor your action specifically to the debts, your needs, and the debtor’s situation.

Can you explain to me the steps in a typical commercial collection lawsuit?

A lawsuit in Washington State is initiated by the filing and services of a summons and complaint. Depending on the nature the action and the amount in dispute, we will advise you whether to file the suit in district court, superior court, or even federal court in certain limited circumstance. “Service” is personally delivering the summons and complaint to the debtor or the debtor’s duly authorized representative by a process server. Depending on the nature of the case, and the status of the debtor, we may recommend certain strategies at the very outset of litigation to try to maximize your recovery. One such measure is known as a prejudgment attachment. This is a procedure available in certain circumstances where you can essentially put a lien on debtor’s property – even before you reduce the claim to judgment, which can help preserve the status quo or prevent debtor’s efforts to hide or transfer assets. The goal of commercial collections litigation is to obtain a judgment or settlement of the delinquent account. Our goal is to reduce the claim to judgment as soon as possible because the judgment will provide more tools to help collect the debt. If the debtor responds to the lawsuit, it may still be possible to obtain judgment through a special hearing process known as summary judgment. Summary judgment is allowed where the judge finds that the law supports your claim, and there are no disputed issues of material fact. If you need assistance collecting on a commercial debt or suing for breach of a contract in the greater Seattle area, please contact me for a free initial consultation and case evaluation.What can be done once the claim is reduced to judgment?

Obtaining a judgment is really just the first phase of a commercial collection case.

Obtaining a judgment does not automatically force a debtor to make payment. However, once a judgment has been entered, you will have very valuable and powerful tools to aide in the collection of the debt. A judgment can be used to create a lien on all real property owned by the debtor, and, if there is adequate equity in the property, this lien can subsequently be foreclosed to satisfy the debt. Once a judgment has been obtained, you can also garnish wages or bank accounts, subpoena banks or other third parties who may have information about debtor’s assets, and also force the debtor to produce documents and answer questions under oath about their assets. I have years of experience in collecting on judgments and will be able to help you and your business choose the best strategy for the particular circumstances. If you need assistance collecting on a commercial debt or suing for breach of a contract in the greater Seattle area, please contact me for a free initial consultation and case evaluation.

What should you do when a debtor files for bankruptcy?

As soon as you receive notice of a bankruptcy filing, you must immediately stop all collection efforts. The first document a creditor typically receives is a Notice of Bankruptcy Filing, although it is not uncommon to get a telephonic or informal notice before receiving this official notice from the bankruptcy court. This document contains important information including the name and address of the debtor’s attorney, the court where the bankruptcy was filed, the chapter proceeding (most commonly a Chapter 7, Chapter 11 or Chapter 13), and important case deadlines. One of the most important features of a bankruptcy filing is known as the Automatic Stay under 11 USC §362. This prohibits any action to collect on a debt unless or until the bankruptcy court issues an appropriate order. If have questions about what to do after a debtor who owes you or your company money files bankruptcy in the greater Seattle area, please contact me for a free initial consultation and an explanation of your rights as a creditor in the bankruptcy proceedings.

What are the chances of recovery on my claim?

Every claim is different and it is simply impossible to give a one size fits all answer to this question. What I can tell you is that there are steps you can take to help increase the chances that your business will be able to collect on any given debt. Proper documentation, including a detailed credit application and contract will provide you additional tools that will help with collection. Having your debt secured by specific collateral or personally guaranteed also helps increase the chances of recovery. In addition, the more information you are able to provide regarding the debtor, such as where the debtor banks, or the debtor’s primary customers or clients, the better the chances of recovery.