(WSVN) - A South Florida woman was involved in a car accident 20 years ago. So why is she still dealing with a debt disaster? 7’s Karen Hensel investigates.

A lot of South Floridians are living paycheck to paycheck. But Veronique Nesmith says she isn’t even getting her whole paycheck.

Veronique Nesmith: “It’s affecting me a lot. It’s affecting, I can’t, I can’t start to tell you.”

She’s on the hook for thousands of dollars, from a car accident that happened nearly 20 years ago. She only found out last year when she started a new job and her paycheck kept coming up short.

Veronique Nesmith: “Almost $400, like $300 and some dollars.”

When she asked about it , she found out her wages were being garnished.

This is the actual court order sent to her employer.

It says in 2006, a judgment was entered against her for $14,801.91.

Veronique Nesmith: “I just, I literally just broke down.”

Veronique discovered the debt was being pursued by a collection agency.

Veronique Nesmith: “So when I called the company, I spoke with the young lady, and that’s when she told me, ‘Oh yeah, it’s for a car that you owned in the 1990s,’ but that vehicle was in an accident, and I received paperwork to say that the GAP insurance had covered the remaining balance of the vehicle.”

Veronique says she had paperwork showing the car had been paid off, but she threw it away years ago.

Veronique Nesmith: “So I actually tried reaching out because I remembered the finance company. So I reached out to that number and that’s when I found out that they were no longer even in business.”

7 Investigates found out the financing company has gone through two ownership changes and the current owner can’t find Veronique’s records. But at some point in the last 20 years, her account was turned over to a collection agency.

Veronique Nesmith: “And if it is something that I’m accountable for, at least give me the opportunity. And I wasn’t given the opportunity.”

Veronique claims she does not remember getting any court notices about the debt in the mail.

The collection agency tells 7News it sent a letter to Veronique’s address on Jan. 24, 2020.

It adds that she called them four days later and “discussed settlement options”… But “did not follow up…”

Veronique Nesmith: “That didn’t happen. I spoke with them only once and that was after finding out the garnishment may have taken place in September of 2022 but didn’t speak with anyone prior to that.”

We shared Veronique’s story with bankruptcy attorney, Patrick Cordero. He says many people don’t realize they have been sued until years after it happens.

Patrick Cordero: “And what happens is things happen like garnishments, seizures of assets, garnishment of other salaries and you can’t handle it. It does happen, but most people do recognize a responsibility.”

Cordero says there are ways to stop a garnishment you can’t afford. The most likely option is declaring bankruptcy.

Patrick Cordero: “We protect her asset, her car, stop the garnishment and give her a fresh start.”

He and Veronique are working together to figure out the next step.

Veronique Nesmith: “Oh, it makes me feel good because, you know, I honestly, honestly, thank you for even getting me to this point.”

She hopes that the help she is getting can finally put an end to her debt disaster.

Karen Hensel, 7News.


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