If You Win In Court, Can You Collect Your Judgment?

If you are injured because of the negligence of another, you may begin to analyze your case with the more obvious aspects of an injury lawsuit. Was someone negligent? How? Were you injured? How badly?

But often overlooked is the issue of collectability. Collectability is your ability to collect a judgment that is entered in your favor. Being awarded millions of dollars can be an empty victory if the defendant has no funds to pay the verdict entered.

Collectible and Non-Collectible Defendants

In most cases, a verdict will be paid by larger companies with sufficient assets to pay a judgment entered against them. They know that if they didn’t pay, they would be easily collectable, and rather than have the sheriff gather their belongings and have bank accounts garnished, they usually prefer just to pay the judgment (this is assuming there is no appeal, which is another topic for another day).

In many cases, companies are also insured. Although in an injury lawsuit the negligent entity or person is the defendant, in actuality, it is their insurance that will pay most or all of any verdict entered against them. Insurance policies can be in the millions of dollars, ensuring payment of a judgment entered in favor of a victim.

But some situations give rise to wonder whether there is adequate coverage. Some situations where collectability must be considered include:

  • Any lawsuit against a very small business that may not have assets, may have other creditors, and which may not be insured.
  • Accidents where homeowner’s policies are involved, which may have numerous exclusions.
  • Intentional acts, which sometimes aren’t covered by insurance.
  • Struggling or failing businesses (even large corporations) where bankruptcy may be imminent.
  • Any time you sue an uninsured individual.

As you can see, collectability often becomes an issue in the most serious of offenses—often, intentional acts, which may include crimes, rape, or sexual assault.

Lottery Winner Sued for Sexual Assault

With many of these crimes, especially the most serious, the “good” news is that there is no statute of limitations to file a lawsuit against someone, as a recent offender found out.

A registered Florida sex offender, convicted of sex crimes against a 9-year-old in 2002, was recently sued by plaintiffs who are brothers and who say that they were also molested in 1996.

In early December, the offender had the fortune of collecting on a $2.2 million lottery win in central Florida. That lottery win apparently was the impetus for the lawsuit, now that he was a collectable defendant.

The victim’s attorneys have also asked the court to have the lottery proceeds frozen, to prevent the offender from spending it, giving it away, or “losing it,” as people faced with a significant judgment often do.

Because there is no statute of limitations, the suit is a viable one, now that there is a defendant with collectable assets. And while some question the motives of the victims, there is surely nothing wrong with holding someone responsible to his or her victims for heinous crimes committed against them. It all goes to show that collectability can be a fluid concept, which your injury attorneys should be aware of from the start.

Analyzing your ability to recover on a judgment is a crucial part of an injury case. Make sure you have attorneys that will fight for you even after a judgment is entered. Talk to the Miami personal injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation about your injury case.


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