It is possible that your Greenville, SC personal injury lawyer has spent a lot of time in court recently fighting for your personal injury lawsuit to go in your favor. When the verdict comes back to you, you claim victory from the fight. The personal injury judgment is made and the court’s intervention on this lawsuit is now officially completed. How do you collect on the judgment you were just awarded?
The Ugly Truth About Judgments
A judgment is a decision in a case that resolves the issue that instigated the lawsuit to begin with. In this instance, it is the means to an end for a personal injury lawsuit in which you were awarded damages.
When a lawyer is fighting for collection on a judgment, his goal is to turn the legalized piece of paper with numerical figures on it into numerical figures in your bank account. This is sometimes easier said than done though.
In the state of South Carolina, judgments expire. If the awarded party does not make a case to enforce the collection of this in court within a 10 year time period, it expires.
Then there is a very real situation in society that we see all of the time, the defendant is broke. They have no assets that can be used to collect on what they owe you. The old adage is “squeezing blood from a turnip” so in this instance I guess you could say “squeezing a judgment from a defendant”.
Even if the defendant is working, that doesn’t mean that you will benefit from it. South Carolina is not a wage garnishment state. The defendant would have to actually own property for you to collect on in terms of assets.
The defendant is also allowed to request exemptions to the collection of judgments. One exemption is for housing. South Carolina allows close to $50,000 for an exemption on housing.
To make it more understandable. If the person you are trying to collect a judgment on lives in a house worth $250,000 but they still owe $230,000 this means they technically only have $20,000 of equity in the house. With the exemption in place, you would have to wait until they have another $30,000 worth of equity in their home before you could go after it.
If you are trying to get restitution from a judgment that you have been awarded, it is extremely important that you contact a personal injury lawyer in South Carolina to help you with the process. There are so many different forms and motions that have to be filed to set the entire collection process in motion. Your lawyer will know exactly what you need to do.
The Brighter Side of Judgments
Now that you have had to hear the downside of receiving your personal injury judgment, it’s time to look at the sunnier side of things. There are still advantages on your side.
Many people take credit for granted, when a judgment is issued in the state of South Carolina the nonpayment of it can affect their credit. It may not seem like you are getting much out of it, however, this means that they are going to have harder times with credit cards, obtaining loans, and even getting a different bank account.
With the help of your lawyer, a properly filed judgment can automatically place a lien on any real property that the defendant owns. This is something like a house, a car, a boat, a motorcycle, or anything else of value with a title attached to it.
They will not be able to sell or benefit from the sale of the property until the lien is paid.
There may even be additional hope if the defendant owns additional real estate or other types of property that are outside of the state. These are not off-limits from the collection of a judgment.
Seeking Out Legal Advice for your Personal Injury Judgment
When you are trying to collect on a personal injury judgment you almost need to have a sit down meeting with yourself and analyze the situation. Make sure that you have done all of your research on the person you are trying to collect from. Are they hiding anything from the court?
If you are trying to collect a judgment from Joe who works in a fancy office, lives in a fancy house, and has accounts that you have uncovered in Switzerland, he may be a worthy cause.
Bob, on the other hand, works at a burger joint, rides a bike, and lives in his mom’s basement.
The point being made and the point that an experienced personal injury law firm can help you come to terms with is if the fight is going to actually be worth it. Maybe this judgment is something that you file away for a few years looking for the situation of the defendant to change. Don’t give up on the judgment, but you may need to change your timeline on it. Make sure you get a free consultation with a lawyer to weigh out your options.