Collecting an Unpaid Judgment: What Are Your Options?

Perhaps, like many people, you were awarded a judgment after an accident, dishonest transaction or case of negligence on the part of someone else. You probably felt a sense of relief and vindication after winning your case. While the aware cannot undo whatever wrong you suffered, it could at least make things a little easier for you and your loved ones. Not only that, but it’s always a good feeling to have the legal system come down on your side and publicly declare that you were in the right.

However, you might also fall into the all too common category of people whose judgments were never paid in a timely manner. This is one of the blots on our legal system that is often not spoken of. You aren’t usually aware of it unless you’re an attorney -or you end up with a judgement that you cannot collect. All too often, the debtor refuses -or is simply unable- to make the payment. This can be an extremely frustrating experience, one that takes away from your feeling of victory. What can you do in such cases? Let’s look at a few possible solutions and the pros and cons of each.

  • Hire an Attorney -This may seem like the most logical solution to your problem. Unfortunately, it’s also the most expensive. Unless your judgment is very large, it probably isn’t worth it for you to consider this. The other problem is that an attorney may not be able or willing to track down the debtor and/ or his resources. Collecting judgments is a very different type of action than winning a judgment in court. If you have a very large judgment and you can easily locate the debtor and you know that he has the resources to pay, then it might be worth your while to hire an attorney.
  • Use a Collection Agency -This is another well known solution that has its limitations. Collection agencies typically deal with high volumes of judgments. They try to collect by sending out letters and making aggressive phone calls. This strategy has a rather low percentage of effectiveness. Collection agencies do not give much attention to each individual case, so your odds of gaining satisfaction are not very good. Collection agencies are really set up for the benefit of large corporations who can afford to only collect on a small minority of judgments.
  • Hope That the Debtor Will Eventually Pay -This is a passive strategy that can end up leaving you without anything. There is a statute of limitations on unpaid judgments, which varies from one state to another. This means that after a certain number of years, the judgement is no longer enforceable. This means, in effect, that time is on the side of the debtor and every year he gets away with not paying you brings him closer to not having to worry about every paying.

A New Solution to the Problem of Unpaid Judgments

There is a new alternative to the traditional ways of dealing with this problem. It’s called Judgment Marketplace, where buyers and sellers of judgments come together. It’s been called an “eBay of judgments.” This is a site where anyone can register and put up their judgments, setting their own price. Buyers who decide they want to invest in a judgement can buy it on the spot, just like a “buy it now” item on eBay.

Judgment Marketplace is fairly new, but is already growing quickly. It offers people a fast way to collect money on a judgment that might never be paid by the debtor. Buyers look at it as an investment. They can buy lots of judgments and make a profit if even a few are paid. This makes it a win-win for both buyers and sellers.


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