Although most defendants will be honest and pay the damages you (the plaintiff), are owed, there are some cases where they may try to get around the judge and put obstacles in your way for collection. Often, the intent is to pay as little as possible for as long as possible. These delays may mean:
- A refusal to pay the judgment outright.
- Ignore your requests for damages, costs, or legal fees in the hopes less will be accepted.
- Stalling, so defendants can hide their assets or move them.
- Running the clock out so you – the judgment creditor – can’t seize what the court has decreed.
Remember, if the defendant makes the collection more difficult or extends the collection process, the judgment amount will be subject to interest year-on. The judgment is enforceable for a long time and has many benefits.
Assets can be taken when the defendant least expects them to, even years after they have “let down their guard.” If your client (or you) can afford it, wait until the defendant has enough assets to pay the judgment.
Let’s say, for instance, you were awarded $250,000 in damages as a result of a motor vehicle accident suit. However, the defendant was not doing well financially at the time of the lawsuit. They are both unemployed and have very little savings. They don’t have enough assets to pay the judgment. You would be limited to $30,000.
Imagine that they have been waiting for four to five years and the defendant has a job with a high salary and has made good investments over the years. Their assets total $300,000. You can collect the entire amount due under your original judgment if you try to collect. You can even get more from the defendant due to the accrual of interest!
Take control of the assets
A defendant might move substantial assets “offshore” into foreign accounts after losing a case or having a judgment against them.
A Judgment Debtor’s Examination will force the defendant to appear before the court and provide accurate information about the locations of their assets. You will also be given a Writ to Execution by the court to seize the assets.
Collecting damages after a favorable judgment really is all about timing.