Winning a civil court case should be cause for celebration. It should mean happy times ahead. But things do not always work out that way. Sometimes, enforcing the terms of a judgment is harder than securing the judgment itself. Collecting on the judgment turns in to a long and winding road with more bumps than you care to experience.
Is there any way to know you could be in for a long ride? Absolutely. Anyone who has been in the judgment collection game for any length of time knows that debtors put up all sorts of red flags indicating their intent to resist making payment. When you see those red flags, a long ride is likely.
Attempting a Long Shot Appeal
Civil judgments can be appealed just like criminal convictions. Most appeals are considered a long shot due to the difficulty of convincing a judge that something about the original suit wasn’t right. Still, defendants try it from time to time. The more unlikely a defendant’s chances of success, the more desperate an appeal seems. That is a big red flag.
Failing to Respond to Interrogatories
State laws generally allow creditors to begin interrogatories within 21-30 days of the date the judgment is entered. Interrogatories are almost always proffered in the form of written questions. The creditor’s attorney sends questions to the debtor’s attorney. The debtor has so many days to answer the questions and return them to the creditor.
Failing to respond to interrogatories is a clear indication that a debtor plans to be uncooperative. But what if a debtor responds slowly? A slow response is better than no response at all, but it is still a red flag. Resisting interrogatories shows intent. It suggests the creditor might be in for a long ride.
Providing Inaccurate Information
A debtor could respond to interrogatories right away and still throw up a big red flag in the form of inaccurate or incomplete information. Maybe the debtor provides a false address. Perhaps he reveals his employer but doesn’t bother to reveal how much he makes. It is all an attempt to evade payment.
Here’s the deal: a debtor’s attorney knows full well what a creditor is trying to accomplish with interrogatories. A creditor and its attorney are searching for any way to extract payment. They ask questions designed to reveal the debtor’s current financial situation and potential future outlook. Hiding information makes it more difficult for creditors to know what they are dealing with.
Being Evasive About Assets
Thus far, all the warning signs lean toward a long ride without necessarily guaranteeing it. But according to Judgment Collectors debt collection agency out of Salt Lake City, UT, the final two red flags all but guarantee a long ride for the creditor. The first of them is being evasive about assets. A debtor refusing to reveal assets is doing so with full knowledge that said assets could be used as collection leverage. He hides them at all costs in order to protect them.
Moving Away or Hiding
Last but not least is moving away or hiding. Experienced debtors with a history of avoiding judgments might employ either strategy in hopes of hanging on until the statute of limitations arrives. They are hoping their creditors will not renew expired judgments. They are essentially playing the waiting game.
Few judgments are resolved quickly. However, collection doesn’t have to take years to accomplish. A creditor who recognizes any of the red flags described in this post should prepare for a long-term commitment. Successful collection is going to be a long and bumpy ride.