After The Trial: Collecting Your Judgment

Congratulations! You and your car accident lawyer have fought hard, proved your case and accomplished victory.  You may be wondering if it's all over, but there are still a few details left to be ironed out. You will be moving into the next phase of the process, called judgment collection.  Here is what you need to know about this important step:

  • Your attorney would have laid the groundwork for the collection of your judgment before the first legal paper was filed with the court.  In order to collect any monies, there has to be monies to collect.  In other words, the defendant would have been thoroughly investigated to ensure that there are financial resources available to pay for damages in the event you won the case.
  • Insurance is usually used for paying judgments for losing defendants.  For instance, you don't expect the guy who hit you with his car to cough up $100,000 to pay you for your damages.  Instead, it is his insurance company that will be writing a check to you. Insurance companies will typically cut a check within 15-35 days and are wary of penalties that could occur if the payment is delayed.
  • The other party may not have had insurance, but was determined by your attorney to be able to pay you anyway.  In this instance, you have several methods to seek payment.
  1. Wage garnishment:  Your attorney will file with the court to have money taken from the wages of the debtor. You can get a certain percentage of the debtor's pay; the maximum amount varies by state.  If the debtor is unemployed, you can file for future wages, and garnishee those wages until the full debt is paid.
  2. If the debtor has a bank account, you may be entitled to take the money owed to you from the account through use of a levy, which allows the bank account to be frozen and used to satisfy the debt.
  3. Another option is the use of an abstract of judgment, which allows for a lien to be placed on the debtor's real estate property.
  4. The final option is an official court hearing where the debtor appears and is questioned on all assets held.  The hearing is called the judgment debtor's examination. The judge may order some or all of the assets discovered on that day to be surrendered to you to satisfy the debt.

As you can see from the above methods, the awarding of the judgment is far from the end of the process. Your personal injury attorney will be experienced in the collection of judgments and will know how to proceed to ensure that your victory in court will be realized with the monies rightfully owed to you.