In our immediate past post, we attempted to offer some guidance on what steps to take if you find yourself facing a lawsuit over credit card debt that you owe. The key bit of wisdom we hope any Chicago-land reader took away from that post is to avoid succumbing to panic — a very real danger if you have never experienced this kind of situation before.

This week we thought it might be useful to examine where such lawsuits come from and who is generally behind them. For this we draw on the work of the independent, non-profit news source ProPublica. The agency, in collaboration with The Daily Beast, published results of an analysis of suit filings across the country to show that Capital One seems to lead the pack.

Not only does the research reveal that the “What’s in your wallet?” bank appears to go to court to collect debts more often than any other bank, it also tends to go to court over much smaller debt amounts than other banks. The typical balances that have triggered action have been between $1,000 and $1,500.

What also became apparent from the ProPublica investigation is that a large proportion of Capital One’s clients are individuals with poor credit histories to begin with — making Capital One the largest subprime lender in the United States today.

It is worth noting that the ProPublica analysis looked at information from only 11 states. The article suggests that’s because something of a veil exists over how the debt collection process in the U.S. works. Companies don’t have to reveal how often they resort to lawsuits to collect. Still, what ProPublica says it found is that Capital One stands out from all other banks in going to court. And debtors named often are the most financially vulnerable and least protected by consumer protection laws.

Those with experience in dealing with debt relief in Illinois know that legal action can generate a lot of fear. In the face of a lawsuit, real or pending, the best thing to do is to seek the counsel of a skilled bankruptcy attorney to examine what options might exist.