Winning a civil case should be a good way to recover your damages in any injury case, but it really depends on who the judgment is against. Although you may have been awarded damages, if the defendant doesn’t have the disposable income to pay what the court has ordered, then you might have a hard time getting any money. Often the defendant, or debtor, either refuses to pay — or they simply can’t.
If you won your court case and are having a hard time collecting the money that you were awarded, you might have to take additional steps. Just because the defendant doesn’t have the money, that doesn’t mean that they don’t bear responsibility or that you have no recourse to collect. After the judgment is made, there are ten things that you need to know about collecting the money you are owed.
- If you win a case against a large company or business and they have the means, they will typically pay to avoid both bad publicity and having any further legal action taken against them. If they withhold money they owe, it will just lead to higher costs on their end.
- However, if you win against a business that does have the means to pay, it might not be an easy process to get the money from them. Often, they will hide assets so that they don’t have to pay what they owe. It can be difficult to collect on a judgment if the person stonewalls or simply refuses to pay the court-ordered amount.
- According to the state where you reside, you might be able to conduct a post judgment discovery. It is a way to use interrogation and requests for financial documents to try to find money in the form of assets or other income that the debtor might not be disclosing.
- If you hold a monetary judgment against an individual, you can “garnish” their wages. That means that you can collect your judgment directly from the debtor’s wages before the income is paid to the individual. As much as 25% of what they earn can be garnished to pay off the money they owe due to the judgment. If you want to garnish the debtor’s wages, then you have to go through a hearing process and prove that the individual has failed to attempt to make payments toward the judgment award.
- If they aren’t working and they have a savings account, it is possible to garnish someone’s personal accounts in the same manner as their wages.
- If a company owes you money and fails to pay, it is possible to get the sheriff to seize whatever money they have in their cash registers. Businesses might also have to forfeit their machinery or equipment if it has any value and if they are not attempting to pay. Don’t ever try to seize money on your own; go through the proper channels, or you can get hurt or end up in trouble.
- Most states have a time limit of ten years to pay a judgment. If that time expires, you can typically extend it for another ten years. Even if the debtor doesn’t have the money available at the time, you can have a judgment stand against their future earnings and assets.
- If a debtor declares Chapter 7 bankruptcy, then you might have no recourse to collect your money — just like everyone else they owe.
- In many states, you will need to hire a personal injury attorney to help you recover a judgment if the individual or business refuses to pay. That can be a hardship because the attorney will likely charge you by the hour. So, there are times when hiring someone to help you collect might defeat the whole purpose, or end up with you getting nothing or even owing money.
- If the debtor has a property that is located outside of the state where the judgment was rendered, then you will have to file a foreign judgment in the state where the property resides.
Just because you are awarded money in a court judgment doesn’t always mean that you will be able to collect. Sometimes collecting a judgment isn’t possible — or if it is, it doesn’t come without paying someone to help. If you are having a hard time collecting from a debtor, make sure to have someone on your side who understands what you can and cannot do to collect the money that is rightfully yours.