In many cases collecting the court award is more difficult than proving the case in court. A judgment granting the plaintiff an award gives the plaintiff the right to collect the money damages from the defendant, but the plaintiff is responsible for actually collecting the award. The court cannot, and will not, collect awards for any party.
If the defendant is unable to make full payment immediately, the plaintiff may ask the court at the hearing to order a payment plan. The plaintiff must pay the clerical and accounting costs of such payment plan, which costs are not to exceed 10 percent of each payment made. If the defendant is unwilling to pay, the plaintiff may:
- Place a lien on the defendant's property, giving the plaintiff the right to sell the defendant's property to collect the money award. The clerk of the court, when asked by the plaintiff, can place a lien on the defendant's property. A small fee is charged to place a lien.
- Garnish the employer or bank account of the defendant in order to seize the defendant's wages or bank deposits. The garnishment process allows the plaintiff to collect installment payments on the debt the defendant owes. The plaintiff must file a separate garnishment action and pay a filing fee.
If you do not know the name of the defendant's bank or the location of other assets, you can file a post-judgment interrogatory. Mail the form, which can be obtained from the clerk of the magistrate court, to the defendant, who must respond under oath within 30 days. Note that the defendant may close the bank account when advised of the pending garnishment, and then you would need to obtain information about any new account.
- Hire a collection agency to recover the money damages owed. These services can be costly and are usually based on a percentage of the money collected from the defendant.