You won a court case. Now what? In too many cases, the defendant is either unable or unwilling to produce payment. When you’re facing a reluctant debtor, you’ll probably need to do some additional work to get your money. You can either handle this yourself or enlist the help of a Redding attorney. Here are a few steps you can take.
Ask for Payment
This should be your first step. Wait until the right to appeal period is past (usually 30 days), then send a formal, respectful request to the debtor requesting payment. State the amount of the judgment and mention that it will be accruing interest and that an unpaid judgment will likely end up on their credit report. Include a copy of the judgment.
You can also offer the option of taking installment payments. In some cases, it may also help to state that, if they don’t pay, you are prepared to take the necessary measures to secure payment. Many debtors respond to a respectful request, since they don’t want their credit to be affected or don’t want to pay more than they owe already. Know your debtor, however. If you suspect that he’s the type to move or hide assets, it’s best not to mention what you’re going to do if he doesn’t pay.
Ask for Asset Information
Normally, the debtor receives a “Statement of Assets” form along with the official “Notice of Entry of Judgment”. If they did not fill out this information for you and you don’t know where their assets are located, you can file a form with the court that’s called “Order to Produce Statement of Assets and to Appear for Examination (SC-134)”. The court will set a hearing date, in which you can question the debtor in person about their assets. If the debtor doesn’t show up for the hearing, a warrant can be issued for his arrest. If you are concerned about the prospect of being alone with the debtor or if you want a professional to conduct the examination, you can ask an attorney to do it for you.
You can also file a subpoena (i.e. a request for the production of documents) for the debtor’s bank records, paycheck stubs, property deeds, and the like. This is a separate request from the examination order.
Start with the low-hanging fruit, the easiest assets. Wages, bank accounts, and business income are some of the easiest ways to collect. You can garnish up to 25 percent of a debtor’s wages, levy his bank accounts, or get a sheriff or marshal to collect the money from the business’s cash register (called a till tap).
If these options are not available to you, you can put a lien against personal and business property. This option is more complicated. You will need to file a lien in every county where the debtor might have property. You will then need to wait to receive your money until the debtor sells the property.
Suspend Their Licenses
If your judgment is from a car accident, you can request that the debtor’s driver’s license would be suspended. In California, it will be suspended for six years for judgments exceeding $750.
If your judgment is against a person that must be licensed to operate, such as a contractor or real estate agent, you can request that their professional license be suspended. However, you can only do this if your judgment was related to their professional services.
Collecting on a judgment can take time and effort, but getting paid makes it worth the effort. Keep a cool head and stay persistent. And ask your Redding attorney for help if necessary.