Let me say this up front. If you borrow money, you should make an honest effort to repay it.

But when life interrupts your ability to handle your liabilities — say, by a job loss or medical crisis — state laws say creditors can’t use the courts to chase you forever.

Debt collectors have a limited number of years in which they can sue someone to collect. After the time runs out, certain unpaid open-ended consumer debts, such as credit card debt, are considered “time-barred.” You still owe the money, but at some point your old debt becomes uncollectible through the courts.