What To Do If You Win a Judgment

August 13, 2023

You won your case in court and got your judgment. The time delay before you can enforce the judgment has passed. You wrote the judment debtor a letter, asking to be paid, and they did not respond. You called the debtor and they laughed and hung up.

What to do with your judgment? Your choices are to enforce it yourself, hire a lawyer, use a collection agency, or have a judgment enforcer recover your judgment.

Recovering judgments requires too much paper and costs too much. When one owns a judgment, they are responsible for keeping it renewed, monitoring the debtor, and trying to enforce the judgment to get paid.

The owner of a judgment must fill out all paperwork and pay all fees. Enforcing your judgment yourself is appealing because it gives you a chance to recover most of what you are owed.

Should you recover your judgment yourself:

If you have the patience, money, time, and willingness to learn, you can try enforcing your judgment yourself. This works best with stable debtors, when you know where they work. Even then, it is not as easy or cheap as it should be. One rarely recovers the full amount owed. The court and web sites on the Internet will have hints and instructions about recovering your own judgment.

When enforcing a judgment, one has to spend money to recover it, so one usually does not get to keep the full amount they are owed.

When you have someone else fill out the forms, pay the fees, and do the work to recover a judgment, you have to pay them – and give up part of what they recover for you. If you are only spending money and not making progress, giving up part of what is recovered can be appealing.

Using judgment enforcement assistance services:

There are companies that allow you to keep ownership of your judgment. You pay only for the services you need, but do not want to do yourself. These companies offer fixed-fee services including one fee for getting a writ, another fee for doing a sheriff levy, etc. These companies have their own process servers, and let you control everything while they do the work. Of course,such services charge for their work, not for the results, so you might spend with no money recovered.

Hiring a Lawyer:

If your debtor is rich, investigate using a lawyer. When hiring a lawyer, you retain ownership of your judgment. If your judgment is less than $10,000, it usually makes no sense to hire a lawyer. Even if your judgment is more than $10,000, few lawyers work on contingency unless your debtor is rich. Most of the time you must pay by the hour and also pay all the expenses. If your lawyer is not working on contingency, you must pay by the hour even for no results.

Using a Collection Agency:

When using a collection agency, you retain ownership of your judgment. If your debtor is a solid upstanding citizen that will become upset by letters, phone calls, and marks on their credit report, a collection agency might make sense. Unlike a judgment enforcer, a collection agency does not own your judgment, so they are limited in what actions they can take to recover the judgment debt. Collection agencies usually charge between 20 and 40 percent. If a year goes by with no recovery, perhaps tell the collection agency to stop working on your judgment and try some other ways to get your judgment enforced.

If one searches, they can find a new generation of collection agency that does what a judgment enforcer does. They are pure contingency and never charge a fee, so they charge 50% on most judgments.

Using a Judgment Enforcer:

When using a Judgment Enforcer (JE), you give up ownership of your judgment. A JE steps into your shoes, in all matters related to recovering money on your judgment. JEs must retain complete ownership of your judgment while they are trying to enforce it.

Should you worry about giving up ownership to a JE who only gets paid if they recover your money for you? Lots of judgment enforcers are flakes and some are crooks, so I would use a judgment broker. 🙂

Will the JE give your judgment back if you want it back? If the JE knows the judgment cannot be enforced, most will gladly give you your judgment back. But if the JE is making (or soon will make) progress, most JEs will not give it back. Instead they will pay you your share as the money comes in from the debtor.

With a good (screened) judgment Enforcer (JE) you do not have to spend any money, time, thought, or work to recover money on your judgment. Because good JEs only get paid for success, you know they will try to recover your money.

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