Going through with a lawsuit when you've been injured in an accident is a long and sometimes difficult process. You may feel that justice is very slow in coming. Finally getting a judgement in your favor can feel like a huge weight off of your shoulders. Most of the time, that will be the end of it, and you'll receive a check from the insurance company before too long. But if you sued an individual instead of a company – an uninsured driver, for example – you may find that you have trouble collecting on your award. This can be even more frustrating, because by that point, you've already waited a long time. Take a look at some tips that can help you collect the money that you were awarded.
Work With Your Lawyer
Many auto accident lawyers take cases on contingency. That means that they don't get paid until you collect the money that you've been awarded, and therefore, they have a considerable interest in making sure that you get your money. Your lawyer has likely had experience with having to collect money from clients or defendants that try to avoid paying up and can be a formidable ally in helping you collect your cash. Don't lose contact with your attorney just because the case is finished – enlist your lawyers help in collecting your judgement.
Consider Wage Garnishment
Wage garnishment is often one of the simplest ways to collect money that you're owed. As long as the debtor receives a regular wage that keeps them above the poverty line and doesn't have any other garnishments in effect, you can collect your judgement by having up to 25% of the debtor's wages garnished and paid to you. The process of garnishment usually involves giving the local sheriff the information about the judgment and where the debtor works, and then the sheriff delivers the order to the debtor's employer to withhold the wages.
There are some risks involved in wage garnishment. The debtor could decide to quit their job, become a self-employed freelancer, or file for bankruptcy, for example, which would leave you without much recourse in collecting your judgement. Before you proceed with a garnishment, you may want to consider trying to make a deal with the debtor.
It's frustrating to consider settling for less after you've won a judgement already, but if you have bills mounting up and negotiating can get the money in your pocket faster, it may be worth considering. If the debtor feels that the judgement was unfair or excessive, agreeing on a lower amount may be preferable for everyone. However, you'll need to be sure that you still receive enough to cover your medical expenses, losses, and attorney's fees, so don't be too generous.
If the problem is that the debtor wants to pay but can't afford it, you may have some room to work out a payment arrangement that's amenable to everyone. A privately agreed-upon payment arrangement gives you roughly the same result as a wage garnishment – either way you'll receive the money over time and in smaller amounts. The difference is that when the debtor agrees to the payment arrangement, they're less likely to try to find a way out of it than they would be if it were forced on them.
You should involve your attorney in any negotiations over your judgement – especially if you still owe attorney's fees. If you make arrangements without consulting your attorney, you could find yourself on the hook for your lawyer's portion of the settlement before you've received it all from the defendant. Your attorney can also help ensure that the arrangement is fair and legally binding.
Depending on your state, you may also have other options, like putting a lien on the debtor's property, vehicle, or business. Make sure to discuss all of the possible options with an attorney, such as those at The Jaklitsch Law Group, before deciding which path to take.