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Collecting on a Judgment? Here’s What You Should Know

If you recently won a lawsuit, you probably thought that fight ends there. Sometimes, collecting on a judgment is as difficult as winning a lawsuit. You may be able to collect on a judgment in New York easily if the defendant is stable financially. But, if the defendant has financial difficulties, it may be necessary to force them to pay. So, before you bring a lawsuit, you should consider assessing your ability to collect a judgment. 

The judgment will be issued by the court clerk shortly after a judge has made the decision. During this time, you become the judgment creditor while the defendant becomes the judgment debtor. Usually, the judgment is paid either as a lump sum or in installments. 

Collecting a Judgment Against Several Defendants

If your lawsuit involves several defendants, the latter will divide the payment among themselves. In a lot of states, if other defendants can’t pay their shares, the entire award is paid by the liable defendant. The paying defendant will pursue the others for reimbursement. 

Finding the Assets of Your Debtor

After a judge issues the judgment, your debtor may be required to fill out asset disclosures. As a judgment creditor, you can investigate assets like money, investments, bank accounts, real estate, inheritance, jewelry, motor vehicles, business interests, and artwork. Should your debtor transfer property before the judgment, you can get the transfer reversed. An expert can help you find assets if you think the debtor is hiding them. 

But, it is important to keep in mind that not all assets are subject to collection efforts. Some equity in major assets like motor vehicles and homes are given exemptions. But, you can collect your debtor’s equity in their house or vehicle that is not part of the exemption. Exemptions for personal property are more limited and the debtor may not be able to protect some luxury items like electronics and jewelry. 

In case of a Chapter bankruptcy filing, you might not be able to collect on the judgment, although exceptions apply. If you are a claimant in a personal injury case like a car accident due to a drunk driver, you may still be able to collect. In addition, if the judgment leads to a lien on the property of your debtor, you may be able to take the property attached to this lien. But, make sure you record the lien, so the debtor cannot challenge it.