Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Sad Truth About Collecting Judgments From Lawsuits

Many people such as myself have filed lawsuits as a last resort to counter the damages the defendant(s) caused.  After trying everything within my power to end the dispute, I filed.  I won a judgment last year for $25,136 that is really nothing but a piece of paper, even less significant than an IOU.  I'm quite certain the judgment is noncollectable unless the defendants win the lotto.

When I filed two defamation lawsuits in 2009, I had no intention of ever collecting a dime.  I knew that, unless the defendants had a nice paying job or owned a home or an over the top expensive vehicle, there was virtually no way of collecting a judgment.  Procedurally I could order a writ of examination and request the defendant's financial information and bank accounts, but by the time I collected the information, the accounts would be empty.  Moreover, any IRA/401k retirement accounts are untouchable from collection from judgments.  Of course, I could also place a garnishment on wages, but that wasn't an option for an independent contractor and low wage earner.  Even if I obtained a wage garnishment, the amount would be restricted to 10-15% of the paycheck.

The sad truth is that if people with no real property or employer don't want to pay you anything in a lawsuit you generally won't be getting anything. Such is why lawsuits should only be a last resort because they're time consuming and expensive.  Here's a hint: lawyers generally file lawsuits only after they research to find the defendants have considerable assets. 

I once learned the hard way from a Small Claims Court case, if someone doesn't want to pay you, unless they're wealthy, you have virtually no hope of getting your money. Here's another little hint, people don't have to pay if they don't want to. They can move, quit their job if they have one, and avoid paying.  Unless the issue is child support, there's virtually no hope.

Unless the defendant has real assets and a good paying job, the court's essentially acting like Bugs Bunny in this Looney Tunes episode in its awarding a mirage judgment.  It's all yours now, take it!

The Last Resort Option

When you realize you're virtually helpless to collect your judgment, you might want to consider offering a reduced pay off amount and settlement agreement.  For instance, I'd be willing to negotiate a $1,000 payoff for the $25K dispute but see no reason why the defendants think they should pay me anything.   What for?  What would they get out of paying me one cent?  The court system's a joke designed for the big game players, not for people like me. 

Imagine if I harassed the defendants for my money, what could they do?  First, they'd likely file a complaint for unlawful harassment under certain circumstances and it all could backfire on me, then I could be sued.  They may even decide to eventually leave the State of California.  I'd have to invest hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to track them down using a private investigator but might never locate them again.  They could possibly go undetected for years unless they opened a new banking account or credit card account in the new state.

The only time lawsuits really affect people is if they have a lot of money to lose.