This article explains judgments and the process of judgment recovery and provides a few suggestions for how to go about collecting.
Judgments are awarded by the court system as a result of a civil lawsuit. They are generally awarded in monetary amounts, but may also come in the form of real estate and other valuable property.
Collecting or Recovering a Judgment Award
Even though you win in court, it doesn’t mean that you automatically get the money. The legal system then leaves the responsibility of enforcement or collection of the judgment to the judgment creditor, i.e. the person who won the case. You have ten years to collect, but the time can be renewed if necessary.
Statistics show that nearly 80% of all judicial judgments are never enforced, which means no money is ever collected. My father won an award against a company for $1 million as a result of patent theft, but he never saw a dime of it.
Ways to Collect a Judgment
If the money isn’t paid willingly by the debtor, you have to use a collection attorney, or use other legal means to get them to pay. These methods may include: additional legal action, placing liens on property and equipment, garnishing wages and bank accounts, etc. Before you begin the collection process, you should realize that it might be dangerous in some situation. Whenever you need to physically collect something, be sure to work with law enforcement.
Most states will allow you to conduct a “post-judgment” discovery process. This process is used to request financial states and other documents from the debtor. The purpose is to get a clear picture of the debtor’s financial condition, including all of their assets and liabilities.
Garnish Wages and Bank Accounts
Most states will allow you to garnish up to 25% of a person’s wages. Doing so will require another court hearing to get it approved. During the hearing, you will need to re-present the information to prove that they owe you money. In addition to garnishing wages, you can also garnish their bank account.
Hire a Judgment Recovery Specialist
Many different types of companies provide judgment recovery services. Such services are provided by collection attorneys, collection agencies, private investigators and others. Experienced recovery specialists are aware of the many different methods to collect on outstanding debts, such as:
- Full payment to avoid further legal action
- Setup of partial payment or payment plans to retire the debt over time
- Garnishment of wages or other forms of income
- Seizure of property such as land, vehicles, etc.
- Seizure of financial instruments such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds
- Establishment of leans on real property
To find a company that provides such services, start by conducting a Google search using the terms judgment recovery and scan through the first page of listings. Visit the sites and review their products and services. Make a short list of companies to contact directly, and a shorter list of those to call on the phone. Before entering into an agreement, ask for references and check their Better Business Bureau rating.
Consider Hiring a Private Investigator
Private investigators can provide assistance with judgment recovery by helping to track down a debtor, or do a financial asset investigation on the subject. However, since there are many legal matters involved, it is best to also hire a collection attorney. The collection attorney may already have an arrangement with a local private investigator. To hire a private investigator that specializes in judgment recovery, please visit our Private Investigator Directory to hire a private investigator.
If you have any questions about the judgment recovery process, please post a message below.