How to Collect on a Florida Judgment
If you win a lawsuit, the court will issue a judgment in your favor. This judgment, however, is only a piece of paper. Ultimately, it is up to the defendant to pay you, because a court will not collect a judgment for you.
In many cases, the defendant has insurance which will pay the court judgment. This is true in many car accidents and slip-and-fall cases. However, sometimes the defendant does not have insurance, which means an injured plaintiff will need to take additional actions to get paid. Below are some of the best techniques for collecting on a judgment.
Garnish the Defendant’s Wages
If the defendant has a job, you can garnish a portion of his wages. You cannot take everything; instead, Florida law limits you to a maximum of 25% or three times the minimum wage, whichever is the lesser amount.
To start the garnishment process, you must take your certified court judgment to the court clerk and ask for a writ of garnishment. You will serve this document on the defendant’s employer and then provide notice to the defendant so that they can object. If all goes as planned, the defendant’s employer will withhold the garnished amount each pay period and send it to you. You can keep the garnishment going until your judgment is paid off in full.
Levy the Defendant’s Personal Property
Personal property is movable property like vehicles, boats, artwork, jewelry, etc. To find what property the defendant has, you might need to serve them interrogatories, which the defendant will need to answer under oath. The defendant cannot own the property jointly with their spouse unless you have a court judgment against both spouses.
Once you find property to levy, you must file a lien with the Florida Department of State. A personal judgment lien is good for 5 years. You should also check whether there are other liens on the property, because a senior lienholder will need to be paid before you.
You can then take your certified court judgment and ask the court clerk for a writ of execution. You will need to give this to the sheriff along with instructions identifying the personal property to seize. If there are other lienholders, you will need to notify them. However, if all goes well, the sheriff can seize the property and sell it at auction. You will then receive a portion of the proceeds to satisfy your court judgment.
Levy Real Property
You can also seize and sell the defendant’s real property, meaning real estate. In Florida, a defendant’s home is exempt in most situations, but you could seize other property, such as rental property or vacation homes.
You will need the county sheriff’s help to levy the property. The process is similar to levying personal property, except you will record your judgment with the real estate recording section for the county where the property is located. Many sheriff’s departments provide detailed instructions for how to levy real property, so pick up the instructions, which can make the process easier.
Need Legal Help? Speak to a Daytona Beach Personal Injury Lawyer
Collecting on a court judgment can be a tedious process, but you have no choice in some cases. At Bundza & Rodriguez in Daytona Beach, we can help analyze whether you should sue a defendant and identify assets that can be used to pay a court judgment, such as bodily injury liability insurance, or homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation, 386-252-5170.