The defendant's ability to pay your settlement award, should you win, is an essential consideration when debating whether to instigate a personal injury lawsuit. There is no use wasting you and your lawyer's resources if the defendant is judgment proof (meaning there is no way you can collect the judgment from him or her).
It's easiest to collect the judgment from insured defendants, but this doesn't mean you only sue those who have relevant insurance coverage. There are other ways of collecting judgment, and they include these three:
The Defendant Is Employed
If the defendant is employed and earns regular wages, you can garnish them. Before you go ahead with the plan, however, there are a few things you need to know about wage garnishment:
- The defendant's earnings must be above the poverty line.
- State laws may prevent you from taking more than 25% of the defendant's wages.
- Other creditors haven't started garnishing the same defendant's earnings.
If you have decided to go ahead with the garnishment, follow your jurisdiction's laws on how to handle the process. In many states, this involves notifying the sheriff or levying officer to initiate the process.
The Defendant Is Expecting Future Income or Property
It's also good to go ahead and sue if your defendant cannot settle his or her debts now, but may have the capability in the future. This is because the law allows you to collect judgments for many years. In fact, in most cases, you can renew the debts multiple times, which allows you to extend the collection period almost indefinitely. Moreover, you will also be entitled to the accrued interest.
Therefore, it still makes good sense to sue if your defendant has just graduated from college (raising his or her prospect of getting a job). The same is true if the defendant is waiting for probate to end to so he or she can inherit part of an estate (thereby gaining income or assets you can seize).
The Defendant Has Unprotected Property
If your defendant/debtor has property, petition the court to help you seize and sell it. However, this is only possible with unprotected property since there are others protected by state laws that any debtor cannot touch. Examples of protected properties include clothing, household electronics such as TV sets, and personal cars below a certain amount. On the other hand, most states allow you to seize real estate property (other than the debtor's principal dwelling) or money in a bank account.
To learn more, go to site resources and talk to a personal injury attorney.