How Judgment Recovery Works
This article explains judgments and the process of judgment recovery and provides a few suggestions for how to go about collecting.
The court system awards judgments 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 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.
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 due to 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 situations. Whenever you need to collect something physically, work with law enforcement.
Most states will allow you to conduct a “post-judgment” discovery process to help expedite the judgment recovery. This process requests financial statements and other documents from the debtor. The purpose is to get a clear picture of the debtor’s financial condition, including its assets and liabilities.
Garnish Wages and Bank Accounts
Most states allow you to garnish up to 25% of a person’s wages. Doing so will require another court hearing to get it approved. You must re-present the information during the hearing to prove 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 shortlist of companies to contact directly and a shorter list of those to call on the phone. Before agreeing, ask for references and check their Better Business Bureau rating.
Consider Hiring a Private Investigator
Private investigators can assist with judgment recovery by helping track down a debtor or do a financial asset investigation. However, since there are many legal matters involved, it is best also to 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.
Learn about other types of financial investigations.
If you have any questions about the judgment recovery process, please post a message below.