Have you ever wanted to sue someone who did you wrong? If so, think long and hard before you go that route. Bear in mind that winning your case is the easy part. If you have already sued and won, chances are you’re struggling with the hard part: getting paid.
Though there are exceptions to the rule, most civil judgments entered in favor of the plaintiff result in the defendant having to pay something. It could be money owed, fees and penalties, or a combination of both. Here is the problem: collecting on a civil judgment – what a court refers to as enforcement – is up to the plaintiff. Courts do not get involved in enforcement except under very rare circumstances.
So how do you get paid? According to judgment collection agency Judgment Collectors, here are the options:
1. The Defendant Cooperates
The ideal situation is that the defendant cooperates and pays up. Maybe he even brings his checkbook to court because he’s pretty sure he’s going to lose. He is prepared to pay you on the spot. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.
In most cases, the plaintiff is required to wait at least 30 days before beginning collection efforts. That’s to give defendants time to appeal, should they so choose. After those 30 days, a cooperative defendant would either pay straight up, set up a payment plan with you, or work out some other means to voluntarily settle the debt.
2. Garnish the Defendant’s Wages
Judgment Collectors says all the other options are available when defendants don’t cooperate. The first among them is wage garnishment. Note that wage garnishment isn’t available in all states. Where it is available, there will be rules about how it can be implemented. In all likelihood, you will only be able to garnish a certain percentage of the defendant’s disposable income.
3. Garnish the Defendant’s Bank Account
Many of the states that allow wage garnishment also allow bank account garnishment. When a bank account is garnished, the bank receives a garnishment order and must comply. Compliance means freezing the account and transferring its existing assets to the plaintiff’s representatives. Bank account garnishment can be a faster solution because the money is already there, whereas wage garnishment ultimately results in weekly or semimonthly installments.
4. Turn Collections Over to Your Attorney
It is not uncommon for plaintiffs to not even attempt enforcement on their own. Instead, they turn it over to their attorneys to handle. This isn’t a bad idea if your attorney has the time and resources to devote to enforcement. But again, that’s rarely the case. Enforcing civil judgments is time-consuming. It is also hard work. Attorneys generally have too many other things on their plates to devote to collection. And even when they are willing to attempt to collect, their hourly charges could make it not worth paying for.
5. Turn It Over to a Collection Agency
The last option is to turn collection over to a collection agency. Judgment Collectors recommends going with an agency that specializes in civil judgments rather than a general collection agency. Judgments are a special type of legal entity that require a different course of action. They also require the collection agency to possess expertise in a unique area of law.
Hiring a judgment collection agency is almost always the best course of action. Such agencies are the experts. They are familiar with the law and all the tools they have at their disposal. Best of all, they know all the tricks defendants use to avoid paying. That makes them particularly good at what they do.