Case Won: What to Do If Your Civil Judgment Goes Unpaid

When you choose to get involved in a lawsuit, you typically expect to win monetary compensation from the party that has wronged you. If you win the lawsuit, the next logical step is that the losing party pays you by order of the court.

However, in some instances, the losing party in the case does not pay the judgment for some particular reason. He or she might not have the money to pay the judgment or might simply refuse to pay.
If this happens to you, you will need to take additional measures and pay extra court costs in order to collect your judgment. The following are some things to remember when you attempt to collect your money after winning a civil case.

Refusal of an Individual to Pay a Judgment

The losing party in a civil case may refuse to pay a judgment for any number of reasons. If you have sued an individual person, the refusal to pay is likely due to a lack of funds. If they do not have the money, they will have nothing to pay you, unfortunately. It can be difficult to collect your money in this type of situation without further action on your part.

Wage Garnishment

Refusing to make a payment for a civil judgment does not automatically get the losing party out of the final judgment. If you have sued an individual and they refuse to pay, you can have their wages garnished – assuming that the individual is employed and is paid legally.
If you choose to have the individual’s wages garnished in order to collect the judgment, you will need to back to court and schedule a hearing. You will also need to provide proof that this person owes you money for your case and has not made payments toward the judgment.
Each state will limit the amount you may garnish from each paycheck, up to a certain percentage per pay period.
If the individual claims not to work or have any sort of income, you can have a post-judgment discovery conducted if you believe that is not truthful. You will need to work with your attorney and the court to do so. The individual could be subjected to questioning and depositions and may also have to provide documents.

Refusal of a Business to Pay a Judgment

Most businesses will comply and pay the judgment right away to avoid any negative press that could hurt their revenue. However, some businesses may choose not to pay out judgments.
If this happens, you have a few more options. The first thing to do is to garnish the bank account of the business, much like you would do with an individual.
However, garnishment may not always an option. Some businesses, especially small businesses, opt to work on a cash-only system. In this case, you would need to work with your local sheriff’s department to make a collection.
With assistance from your attorney, the sheriff can seize the cash in the register of the business in order to pay you. Other assets, such as equipment or inventory, can also be seized in order to help collect your judgment.


If the individual or business that you have secured a judgment against files for bankruptcy, you may be out of luck. Chapter 7 bankruptcy essentially throws out just about all debts that are due, including any judgments issued by the court.
For any of these collection options, you will need an attorney’s assistance at minimum. Keep this in mind when you are deciding whether or not to move forward with collection, as the money you will need to spend may outweigh the amount you are due. For assistance with your legal matters, please contact the Law Office of W. Shane Jennings.
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