Back in the day, I had some trouble with my credit due to an accident. There are a few factors to take into consideration. Usually, after about 6 months of no payment, the debt is "charged off." That's only a term meaning the company doesn't expect any more payments. It's also used by credit agencies as the date of last activity. That date typically starts the seven year reporting clock. The debt could be sold, and the collection agency can then report. If at all possible, work with the original creditor. I was able to work out a deal where they accepted payment in full, and they removed listing from credit bureaus. The law states they have to report ACCURATE information, not that they have to report.
It's a long journey, but completely possible. I own my own house now and years ago my credit score was down to the high 400's. FICO is a fickle fellow and I can give you some more advice if you'd like to PM me. Good luck!!