Even if you win your lawsuit it might be hard to collect the money you’re owed. If you win against a reputable business or individual, most will pay without a fuss. But if your debtor refuses to pay, the court won’t collect your judgment for you or provide you with much help.
There are different ways to collect depending on what you know about your debtor. Here are some tips in collecting what you’re owed:
- Wait until the appeal deadline has past – This is usually 30 days.
- Try to collect the judgment on your own – Try to collect your money on your own since a bill collector can take a large percentage of the amount in fees. Sometimes your lawyer, who won the case for you, also has an interest in collecting the fee and you can work together to collect it.
- Politely ask for the money – Often a number of debtors will pay once a court judgment is issued. If they do not you can politely remind them that an unpaid debt will show up on their credit report. You can also mention that you plan to take legal measures to collect if they do not pay.
- Consider settling for less – If the debtor wants to pay a substantial part immediately or offers to pay in installments you might want to consider settling since it can take a long time to collect what you are owed.
- If the debtor is willing to pay but doesn’t have the money – Try to make some suggestions. Their might be resources that the debtor haven’t thought about.
- Pursue easy-to reach assets first – Try the easier ways to collect your money first; garnish wages, place liens against real estate, seize bank accounts or intercepting money paid to a debtor’s business. It is much more difficult to try to force a sale of a debtor’s house, vehicle, business assets or personal property.
- Keep track of the debtor – It’s important to keep track of the debtor. The more you know about the person or the business who owes you money the more likely you are to get your money.
- Timing is everything – Try to collect before other creditors learn of your plans. Also if you are collecting from an account where the debtor’s salary is deposited, collect on the day when the salary is deposited.
- Pressing the debtor– You can report the judgment to a credit-reporting agency. In some cases bad credit can result in someone losing his/her license if the debtor is a contractor. This is the case in California.
- Most judgment collection costs are recoverable – However, if you can’t collect anything from the debtor, you won’t get these costs either. So don¿t spend too much money trying to collect your money.
You can give the sheriff or local official (called the levying officer) information about where the judgment debtor works or the debtor’s bank account number. The levying officer collects money from the employer or account and gives it to you.
Every state authorizes you to collect interest on a judgment, which is usually 6 to 8% annually. You can see your court judgment as a long-time investment especially if you get a lien on real estate owned by the debtor. Remember to renew your judgment. Your original judgment is valid from 3 to 20 years, and then has to be renewed.