Patience Is the Key After Winning a Civil Judgment

Hollywood has done a fantastic job of convincing people that court cases are over and done with as soon as the judge’s gavel falls for the final time. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially when it comes to civil court. A court-rendered judgment is just the beginning of what is usually a long enforcement process. Patience is the key to getting through it all.

A decision in civil court is nothing like a decision in criminal court. Under federal and state laws, criminal convictions have clear consequences. Not only that, but courts also have the authority to enforce said consequences. Civil court is different. Even after a court renders a judgment against one party, the consequences of that judgment are not always black-and-white.

Judgments Can Be Complicated

Right off the bat, civil judgments can be complicated. In a bad debt case, a judgment typically includes the amount of the original debt along with the creditor’s court costs, attorneys fees, and any additional costs incurred through collection efforts. That is about as simple as it gets.

When a civil case isn’t primarily about bad debt, just about anything goes. A judgment might force the losing party to cease and desist some type of behavior. It might compel an employer to do something on behalf of its employees. In a personal injury lawsuit, the resulting judgment could include a substantial monetary award along with systemic changes in the way the losing party operates.

Nearly everything contained in a civil judgment is left to the winning party to enforce. Therein lies the problem. Because civil courts have little to no enforcement authority, losing parties can slow-walk their cooperation or simply refuse to cooperate altogether.

Enforcement Takes Time

The end result of winning parties having to enforce judgments on their own is that it takes time. This is easily understood by looking at a typical bad debt case Salt Lake City’s Judgment Collectors might take on.

Let’s say a company wins a sizable judgment against a customer who fails to pay his bill. Immediately following the trial, the company wants Judgment Collectors to begin collection efforts. But state law requires a 30-day waiting period to give the debtor a chance to appeal. Collection efforts cannot begin until day 31. On that date, the agency sends a letter asking for pertinent debtor information. The debtor now has 30 days to respond to the letter.

Everything the company does is subject to strict rules and regulations. More often than not, there are time limits attached. But even that is not the worst of it. Debtors who either know the system or have experienced attorneys tend to drag their feet for as long as they can. Doing something as simple as working out a payment plan can easily take 6-12 months due to a lack of cooperation.

When Debtors Refuse to Pay

Things get more complicated when debtors refuse to pay. They might provide false information during interrogatories. They might purposely waste time in order to give themselves a chance to hide valuable assets. The most aggressive might even skip town and not leave any forwarding information.

Judgment Collectors says that all these things can be overcome, but not quickly. It takes an experienced collection agency time to find hidden assets and track down debtors purposely trying to hide.

Civil court might be the only option when parties have sharp disputes. But the conclusion of a court case rarely ends the matter. It only opens the door to more processes involving more work. If you are not patient, you won’t make it.