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What Can I Do If I Had a Car Repossessed

Question: What can I do if I had a car repossessed in 2006 and it’s now 2013 and I’m just hearing from them and they are threatening legal action?

Answer: The statute of limitations on a retail installment contract is four years, measured from breach (some time prior to repossession) or last payment, if later. The statute of limitations on a note is ten years, measured the same way. A retail installment contract is an agreement that is originally payable to the seller of the car, who generally (but not always) assigns it to a finance company. A note is payable to a financial institution. In Illinois, if you sign a contract to pay a car with a car dealer, it is generally a retail installment contract; if you arrange your own financing, it is a note. This is not necessarily the case, and the transactions are handled differently in some states (the bank can furnish a note to the car dealer who obtains your signature), so a lawyer needs to examine the paperwork.