The American legal system is essentially divided into two categories of law: civil and criminal. The latter is easy enough to understand. Criminal law covers matters that constitute crimes. Civil law covers everything else. Because the two types of law are different, the conclusions reached by courts are also different.
In criminal court, a verdict is entered against the defendant. A defendant is found guilty, found innocent, or acquitted. There is no guilt or innocence in a civil case. Instead, courts find in favor of either the plaintiff or defendant. They also enter judgments as a result of their findings. This brings us to the question of civil judgments. What are they and how are they enforced?
Civil Judgments Explained
A civil judgment is entered in favor of a plaintiff when the plaintiff wins the case in question. Likewise, finding in favor of the plaintiff means finding against the defendant. A judgment is entered against the defendant as a means of determining what happens next. In other words, what are the consequences of the defendant losing the case?
Most civil judgments are entered as a means of establishing a legal debt. For example, imagine a property management company suing a property owner who fails to pay his monthly service fees. If the company wins its lawsuit, the court will enter a judgment against the property owner. That judgment legally recognizes the existence of the outstanding debt and the property owner’s obligation to pay it.
The judgment also gives the property management company access to certain legal tools necessary for enforcement. Such tools are essential due to the way judgments are enforced.
Courts Don’t Enforce Judgments
The unfortunate thing about most civil judgment is that courts do not get involved in enforcement. They leave that to creditors, attorneys, and collection agencies. Without the help of court enforcement, creditors and their agents have to rely on the limited tools they have to undertake collection.
Here are just some of the tools creditors can work with:
- Garnishment – Most states allow creditors to garnish debtor wages and bank accounts. Any garnished monies are forwarded to the creditor until the debt is paid off.
- Property Liens – Creditors and their agents can file liens against debtor property. A lien gives the creditor a legal claim to sales proceeds in the event the property in sold.
- Asset Seizure – Creditors can even seize certain assets and sell them to recoup their money.
According to Judgment Collectors, a Salt Lake City judgment collection firm, creditors have to look at their options on a case-by-case basis. There may be cases in which garnishment is inappropriate. There may be other cases in which it is the only option.
Tracking Down Debtors
Unfortunately, debtors have a bad habit of refusing to pay. There are also those serial debtors who make it their mission to skip out. They are the types of debtors that creditors have to pursue relentlessly. They have to be tracked down and encouraged to pay by whatever means are legally available.
It can take a lot of time and effort to collect a judgment. A company can spend years working on a case without success. But that’s why firms like Judgment Collectors exist. They specialize in tracking down debtors and getting judgments settled.
Now you know what a judgment is and how it is enforced. Here’s hoping you never find yourself on the wrong end of a civil judgment. But if you do, just do everyone a big favor and pay up. Everyone will be happier for it.