After a Civil Judgment: Don’t Expect a Personal Check

Two parties engaged in civil litigation can expect a judgment when all is said and done. That is what civil courts do. They enter judgments in favor of one party and against the other. And more often than not, said judgments include some sort of financial compensation for the winning party. However, the winning party shouldn’t leave the courtroom expecting to get a personal check.

An ideal scenario would involve the losing party writing a check to the winning party before the two leave the courthouse. But things rarely work out that way. Not only do losing parties, also known as judgment debtors, not bring their checkbooks to court, but they have a habit of resisting efforts to collect in the weeks and months following a judgment being entered against them.

Setting up a Payment Plan

Winning parties, also known as judgment creditors, shouldn’t expect to be paid immediately upon winning a civil lawsuit. So what should they do after the judge’s gavel falls? Judgment Collectors, a Utah collection agency that specializes in judgments, recommends trying to set up a payment plan.

If possible, attorneys for the creditor and debtor get together and work out an amenable plan that satisfies both. Perhaps the debtor will pay so much per month until the judgment is paid in full. Maybe the debtor will make a lump sum payment immediately, then smaller quarterly payments. Any deal the two parties can work out puts the judgment to bed with very little trouble.

Moving on to Interrogatories

The unfortunate reality is that voluntary payment plans are an exception to the rule. In most cases, judgment creditors need to move on to interrogatories before their respective debtors will even think about making payment. What are interrogatories? They are written questions designed to determine a debtor’s income, assets, etc.

Interrogatories are a legal tool in addition to a list of written questions. Judgment debtors are compelled to answer interrogatories with written answers. Those answers are supposed to be forthright, true, and complete. But once again, judgment creditors do not always get cooperation from their respective debtors. Interrogatories are often ignored, slow-walked, or answered incompletely.

Bringing in the Experts

Assuming the parties cannot enter a voluntary payment plan and the debtor is proving uncooperative with interrogatories, Judgment Collectors says it’s time to consider bringing in experts. Early signs of a lack of debtor cooperation are an indication that collection is going to be long and difficult. There is no point in a judgment creditor trying to go it alone.

A better strategy is to hire a collection agency that specializes in judgments. Judgment collection agencies have the skills, knowledge, experience, and tools to go after uncooperative debtors and get them to pay. Furthermore, their chances of success go up when they get involved early.

The important thing to remember is that time is the enemy. The longer it takes for a judgment creditor to go hard after its debtor, the more difficult it is to actually get paid. That’s why debtors try to stall. They slow-walk their limited efforts to cooperate knowing that the passage of time gives them an advantage.

Preparing for the Long Haul

It would be nice if civil litigation defendants brought their checkbooks to court with every intention to pay in the aftermath of a judgment against them. But that doesn’t happen. So for plaintiffs, preparing for the long haul is wise. Anyone who wins a civil judgment should be prepared for a protracted collection effort. It is going to take time to get paid. That’s just the way it works.