The Ultimate Guide to Successful Judgment Collection

Although it feels great after winning your lawsuit, you are only halfway through the battle. Judgment collection is not easy. It can be challenging to collect your judgment debt because the court will not do it for you. So, how difficult is it to collect a judgment? How do you find the right judgment collectors?

Most importantly, before you sue, get to know if the person has income or assets that could be used to pay your judgment. That’s the first question a judgment collector will want answered. If the person has some income or some assets or is likely to have in the future, then it is more likely that you will be able to collect your debt.

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What judgment collection services are available?

There are many types of collection agencies, and some specialize in just one of the two types of debts – consumer and commercial. Judgment collectors use different methods to recover debts depending on whether they are commercial and consumer debts. These debts dictate the types of services a judgment collection agency can offer.

Consumer Debt

Consumer debt refers to debt that people accrue in their personal lives. This debt includes car loans, mortgages, medical bills, credit card debits, and so on. This debt category has strict guidelines on how the collection can be done.

In general, the debtors can contact the creditors by phone, text or email to request for debt settlement. On the messages, they must clearly identify themselves as debt collectors, and also give a notice that clearly states what they owe. There are strict requirements on how this notice should be given.

Commercial Debt

Commercial debts are owned by businesses or commercial ventures. The debt is used to fund business operations, asset acquisitions, and business development.

Commercial debt is less structured and debt collectors have more leeway in what they can and cannot do. Therefore, professional experience is critical to successfully collect the debt.

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Is there an agency that collects your judgment for you and pays you?

Months or years might go by with no payment from the debtor. Then creditors ask themselves, ‘How long does it take to collect a judgment?’, or ‘Who can help me collect my judgment?’ You celebrate after obtaining your judgment, but what comes next?

It is up to the judgment creditor to know how he will collect the judgment debtor. A judgment creditor can choose to execute the debtor’s assets, bank account, wages or other income. The creditor files these requests with the court clerk, and gives the sheriff the order to execute on the judgment. Sometimes collecting is even more challenging than winning!

So, using judgment collectors is the fastest and easiest way collect your small claim lawsuit. But how do you choose your collecting agency?

Some collecting agencies will pay you first then collect your judgment. Others will first collect your judgment and pay you as the money comes in. Compare offers from different judgment collectors and find one that fits your needs. When you don’t want to collect your judgment yourself, look for judgment collectors who are willing to buy your judgment at a fixed fee or pay you on a contingency rate.

The fixed fee is usually lower than the amount owed to you, but you get paid before the judgment collector has recovered even part of your debt. Collecting agents are good at what they do, but they will not always recover the money owed to you. So they need a discount.

How can I select a judgment collection agency?

Consider both their fee and their recovery rate

Judgment collectors offer to buy your court judgment at a less than its full amount because they need to cover their costs of doing business. They have enforcement costs, attorney fees, and face the risk of collecting nothing.

Taking that into account, is the amount that the judgment collectors offers you reasonable? Does it make sense when compared to what the debtor owes you? Consider these factors before choosing your judgment collector.

You may be tempted to look and compare the just terms of different judgment collection agencies. But the important thing is how much money the judgment collection agencies put back to your wallet.

Most agencies keep a percentage of the total amount that they are able to collect. So, when choosing your judgment collection agent look at the percentage they keep and their recovery rate.

A judgment collection agent with a high recovery and percentage charged is better than that has a low debt recovery rate or even the percentage charged. The key thing is the amount that is recovered other than the charges charged by the judgment collectors.

From the below example, if you were to choose between judgment collectors A and B, B would be the better choice because of what the help you recover more.

Agency A Agency B
Percentage charged 12% 40%
Recovery Rate 7% 25%
Amount recovered out of 50k $3500 $12500
Cash Returned to the
business
$3080 $7500

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How do I find judgment collectors?

Just the same as you are purchasing something from a seller, the best information comes from those who have purchased their services. Therefore, it is important to make sure to ask for referrals from businesses or individuals who have interacted with the judgment collectors.

Judgment collectors are experts at debt recovery, and they are there to help you recover your debt. You can get good information about the debt collector you are about to work with from;

  • Accounting firms
  • The Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • Law firms
  • The Chamber of Commerce

Check for Licensing

May debt collecting agencies are required to have a license to practice as stated under the collection agency laws.  At the very least they should have appropriate business licensing. Businesses with out-of-state dealings may be required to deal with a judgment collecting agency with a local license. Ask to see it. Make sure your collecting agent is licensed, if necessary, to practice in the area where your debtor lives.

How much does a Judgment Collection Agency Charge?

Judgment collection agencies charges depend on the laws of the state, the method the creditor uses when trying to collect on the judgment and the age of the debt. California judgments are valid for ten years. The period to collect your judgment starts running from the entry date of the judgment.

The judgment collection process becomes easier if a collection agency is involved. Here are ways in which judgment collection agents charge for their services:

Contingency Basis

When a judgment collection agency retains a percentage of the funds recovered, the agency is working on a contingency basis. The best thing with this method is the client never pays anything out of pocket. This method has satisfactory results for the client. However, when using this method you need to keep account of the age of the debt and also the amount owed.

Fixed-price Basis

Some judgment collectors choose to pay a fixed price for a judgment. This is paid to the judgment creditor up front and is usually a lower amount than a judgment creditor might be paid in a contingency collection. The advantage to the creditor is being paid a certain amount immediately.

Variable Costs

When a judgment collecting agency uses both fixed-price and contingency fee structure, they are operating on variable costs structure.

Judgment collection agencies often choose to tier their payment rates by size. Even small judgments require a certain level of effort to earn a certain amount, regardless of the amount. This means that smaller judgments have lower payment rates. Check out the below table to help you understand better.

Based on size Payment in %
Under $1,000 10%
$1,000 – $5,000 15%
$5,000 -$50,000 20%
$50,000 -$500,000 30%
over $500,000 50%

Payment for a judgment claim also is dependent on whether the debtor has assets that can be used to recover the debt.

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How do you collect a judgment?

The debtors are unable to pay their debts because they are insolvent or do not have the assets to collect. This is what lawyers call judgment proof. Others may go to the extent of hiding their assets just for them not to pay the judgment.

However, even if your debtor is unwilling to pay you your debt you can follow procedure to collect your judgment. You can collect your money using three options:

  • A bank levy
  • Wage garnishment
  • Real estate lien

Seizing money from the debtor’s bank account is known as a bank levy. You need to provide details of the debtor’s bank account, account name and the name of the bank for a successful cash transfer. Taking a percentage of the debtors wages to collect your judgment is a garnishment. A real estate lien might get you paid if the judgment debtor sells or refinances their property.

How do I collect my judgment?

‘How do I collect a judgment from a business?’ is a question that many people may ask themselves if a business owes them. There are two primary methods known as a “till tap”, where the sheriff opens the cash register and takes money to pay your judgment, and a “keeper” where the sheriff will sit in a business and collect money as customers pay.

You can also get your money through real estate lien. If the debtor has property, you can claim part of its value. You can do this by recording an abstract of judgment in the county where where the business owns the property. Using this method requires you to be patient. However, you will not get paid until the owner of the business sells the property.

 

The last and the easiest method to collect is wage garnish. If the debtor is employed, you can collect up to 25% of his wage until the judgment is fully paid. To successfully do this, give the sheriff or any other local official information about your judgment and where your debtor works. Thereafter, the judgment collector will collect your judgment and give you the cash.

However, if the debtor can prove that his wages are used for basic support, you cannot garnish his wages. The same case applies if they are subject to another garnishment or they are military employees.

Different states have different procedures for businesses and companies to follow when collecting their judgment. For example, the debtor must give the court information about the assets they own. Therefore, you can decide whether to put a lien to collect.

In case the other party does not agree voluntarily to pay or has stopped paying the instalment agreed, then you can file an Affidavit of default with the court. The Affidavit shows the unpaid balance and requesting action.

How do I collect when I win a lawsuit?

So, you have finally won your lawsuit, but the other party has not yet paid you your money. What method do you use to collect your judgment? Here are a few tips that will help you with the collection process.

  • Ask. Nothing will hurt if you ask your debtor about repaying your debt. Don’t walk away from the court shaking your head. Make contact with your debtor face-to-face and politely ask for your money. Just ask them, “are you in a position to pay me back the money you owe me?”
  • Be Persistent. People may be reluctant to pay a debt even after a court order. The court will never force the losing party to pay. You have to be active and get the court to garnish wages, put a lien on the property or come up with an installment payment plan. Always use the court to help you recover your money. Asking your money from a debtor is a situation where you do not actively ask for your money you may end up on the losing end.
  • When everything else fails. This is where the saying, “you cannot get blood from a turnip,” applies. Sometimes, you may sue a debtor that does not have money, does not have a job or assets. In such a case, do not sue them because, at the end of the day, you will not recover your money.

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How do I collect my labor board judgment?

Let us look at a scenario where my employer owes me money.

I file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, the claim is investigated by the labor board, reviewed by an administrator, and then a hearing is held to determine the outcome of my case.

If I win a labor board award, the labor commissioner will file my award as a court judgment. I can tell if my labor board award has been entered in a court by looking up my name in the court’s records. If I don’t find my name in the register of actions, then it has probably not yet been filed at the court.

So, how do I collect my labor board judgment? The Labor Commissioner’s judgment enforcement unit will offer to collect my judgment for me. I won’t accept this offer. They do not have the resources to collect my judgment, and I will have given up the ability to enforce my judgment.

I will enforce my judgment myself. There are two main problem I may encounter when collecting a judgment from my employer is if the business that owes me money is closed. If the business is open or additional judgment debtors are named I can enforce my judgment. I could also find a judgment collection service.

How do I work with a judgment collection agency or service?

Collecting your judgment can be made easy by working with judgment collection agencies. Even though you do not recover your amount fully, using a judgment collection agency can be of great help in recovering part of the debt.

Working with a judgment collection service is easy. After you select an agency they will mail you one or two short documents to assign the judgment to them for collection. That’s it! You should expect occasional updates from them, and with some luck, eventually a check.

You might also work with a judgment buyer who pays you cash up front. judgment buyers will send you very similar documents. However they will also include a check!

Plan Your Strategy

Every judgment gives the losing party a chance to appeal. Therefore, most judgment buyers will not buy a judgment until the last day of filling the appeal. During this waiting period you might not want to begin enforcing your judgment because you might encourage the party who lost to file an appeal.

Get to Know the Debtors Assets

After losing a lawsuit, the debtor can do many things so that you do not collect his assets. He may try to declare bankruptcy or try to transfer some of his assets.

To stay ahead of the game, you should immediately lien the debtor’s property. You can do this by recording an abstract of the judgment in the recorder’s office where the properties are located.

Once recorded, the debtor cannot transfer his properties to another party without paying the lien.

Ask for your Money

The debtor might pay you if you ask for what they owe you. A simple request is what might be needed to get your money back. Avoid telling the debtor how you will collect if he or she does not pay up. Doing this will make the debtor start to hide his assets.

Educate yourself

It is important to know what you are doing during the collection stage. Therefore, you will need to know what you are doing. Learn everything you need to know about wage garnishments, property liens, and bank levies in advance.

Consider Hiring an expert

There are many agencies that are available and can help you collect your judgment in exchange of a percentage of what they will get from the debtor. Take your time to select the best. If you do not have the time to collect your judgment, or if you do not want to use the time and effort, hiring an expert can be a good idea. After all, it is better to collect some of the money you are owed that losing everything.

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How difficult is it to collect a judgment?

Most judgment buyers will buy the judgment at a value below its face amount. Most collection services will just take a percentage of the debt after recovering. This depends on how judgment collection agents work, and what you think will work best for you in the recovery process.

As we have seen above, winning a claim in the court is not the end of the road. However, collecting your judgment is difficult. Here are things that make collection of a judgment difficult.

  • The debtor declares bankruptcy.
  • If the debtor refuses to pay even after winning the claim.
  • When the debtor is a member of the military.
  • If the debtor decides to change or close his business to avoid the debt.

How do I Find judgment collectors?

When looking for a perfect judgment collector match, you should consider the age of the judgment and the size of the judgment. Also, some judgment collection agencies specialize in specific industries and can help you recover your debt more easily.

It is important to take time to look for a reputable debt collection agency. Some agencies have been around for a long time and have great reviews. Also, they may have numerous certifications and endorsements. Ensure who you choose meets your standards.

Before choosing your judgment collection agent, ask yourself the below question to ensure you will get the perfect match.

  • Does the debt collection agent specialize in my industry?
  • Is the judgment collection agency certified by any trade groups?
  • Can the debt collection agency tailor their services to suit my need?
  • What is the reputation of the agency?
  • How will the agency protect my data?
  • What is the success rate of debt collection?
  • Is the agent transparent in the efforts to collect your debt?
  • Is the agency experienced with debts in my region?

We Pay Cash for Judgments.

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Where can I find help collecting a judgment?

Attorney, Collection Agency, Judgment Buyer, or you

After winning your lawsuit, you can use a judgment collection agency, a judgment buyer, an attorney, or yourself to collect your debt. Your choice depends on your preference and budget.

  • Hiring an attorney depends on the plaintiff. If the plaintiff can pay the attorney to help them with judgment collection, then that is their choice. The upfront costs and risk are higher, but you may end up keeping more of your judgment.
  • A judgment collection agency will usually enforce your judgment at no cost yo you and pay you as they get paid. You get a little less than working with an attorney. But you have no upfront costs.
  • A judgment buyer will pay you cash today for your judgment. You will get a little less than working with a collection agency. But you get immediate payment.
  • You can choose to enforce your judgment yourself. You’ll keep everything you collect. But your chances of collection are lower.

Whether you choose the ease of working with a judgment collection professional or try to collect your judgment yourself, your decision is not necessarily final. Some judgment creditors try to enforce their judgment for a while on their own. If it gets to bee too much of a hassle you can partner with a judgment collecting agency later, or you can work with a third party to sell your judgment.

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