Someone has done you wrong. Your first reaction is to take that person to court in a civil lawsuit. You are convinced you have a compelling case, and you assume that winning will mean a tidy sum of money in your pocket. Not so fast, speed racer. None of this is as simple as it sounds.
Maybe you do have a very strong case. Perhaps your attorney is convinced that winning is a slam dunk. Fair enough. But what do you intend to do after the gavel falls? You still need to collect. As any judgment creditor can tell you, collection is the hardest part. It is also anything but easy or simple.
The complications of collection start immediately. Why? Because a court rendering a judgment in your favor doesn’t terminate the legal process. Indeed, that process continues. It will continue for as long as it takes you to collect the debt.
For example, you may have to wait a minimum of 30 days before you can begin collection efforts. This is to give the defendant time to appeal. After that 30-day period, you might have to engage with the local sheriff’s department to execute wage or bank garnishment.
Do you think you might want to seize the debtor’s personal property as payment for the debt? That will involve going back to court and getting writs of seizure. Here’s hoping you’re in it for the long haul. Otherwise, you might be sorely disappointed by the outcome.
Dealing with the legal system is bad enough. Making matters worse are debtors who do not cooperate. They don’t answer interrogatories in a timely matter or, worse yet, answer but provide inaccurate or incomplete information. Maybe a debtor isn’t truthful about his employment status. Perhaps he doesn’t tell you about his vacation property on the lake.
There are times when debtors are outright dishonest about their abilities to pay. There are other times when they are advised by their attorneys to slow-walk everything. By delaying at every turn, they hope to wear you down until you eventually stop trying to collect.
In more extreme cases, debtors have been known to skip town to avoid paying. One debtor might move to the other side of the county. Another might move across the state. Still another might move to a completely new state. It is not unusual for unscrupulous contractors who get sued by their customers to move across state lines and set up shop again.
Along those same lines is actively hiding assets. Quietly selling a piece of property and stashing the funds away is one example. Another is transferring property into a child’s name. The possibilities are endless.
While it might seem that judgment debtors have all the advantages, creditors can fight back. The best way to do so is to bring in the big guns, so to speak. Who are these big guns? They are specialized collection agencies like Salt Lake City’s Judgment Collectors.
Collection agencies specializing in judgments have access to a wide variety of tools. They can utilize skip tracing to find debtors who have left town. They can search public records and proprietary databases to find hidden assets. They know how to locate employers, find addresses, and search for bank accounts.
Before you decide to sue someone who has done wrong, carefully consider what you will do in the event you win. Winning a lawsuit and getting paid is not as simple as it sounds. It is actually quite complicated.