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Zombie Debt

Reviewed 11/03/2022
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A to Z Database List / NHLL Blog


"Zombie debt" is debt so old that it's past the statute of limitations. These debts are also called "time-barred" debts or "out-of-statute" debts. Debts are sold and resold to debt collectors and as they age, documentation about the status of the debt, the amount of the debt, or the name and address of the debtor may disappear or no longer be accurate. You have the right to dispute the existence or validity of a debt. Reasons for disputing the debt might be: you never owed the money in the first place or don't owe as much as the debt collector says, you already paid, you discharged the debt in bankruptcy, or it's hospital debt which may have been covered under a charitable care policy.  Dealing with debt collectors can be unpleasant and lawsuits can be overwhelming, but the worst thing to do is to ignore the situation.   

Researching this is not as simple as just looking up New Hampshire's statutes of limitations. The statute of limitations varies from state to state and, for different kinds of debts, and under certain circumstances, the clock can be reset and the time period can be started fresh. First step: get documentation so you can figure out where the debt came from and what law might apply.  

It's important to understand that the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense - meaning that you must actually raise this in your answer to a lawsuit. That is why you should never shrug your shoulders and ignore a debt collection suit. If you don't tell the court that the debt is time-barred, then no one will. 



Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive.  
It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. 
NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.