Different Ways To Collect On A Personal Injury Judgment
With an increasing number of uninsured motorist drivers, it becomes important to protect yourself and your family by purchasing uninsured motorist coverage on your auto policy. However, with insurance premiums being very expensive today, there are people who unfortunately either cannot afford this additional coverage, or sometimes are not even offered it by an insurance agent at the time of acquiring a new policy.
A lot of people are misled when they purchase the so-called "full coverage" auto policy since this term is ambiguous. One can refer to full coverage as to the minimally legally required coverage, which in Florida is $10,000.00 in Personal Injury Protection benefits and $10,000.00 in Property Damage coverage. Others regard it as coverage that is beyond the minimally required coverage.
If you are severely injured in an automobile accident that is not your fault and the at-fault driver either did not carry bodily injury coverage on his/her auto policy at the time of the accident or did not carry enough to fully compensate you for your damages, and there is no uninsured motorist benefits available, you may have no choice but to pursue a personal injury claim directly against the at-fault driver by filing suit.
If you prevail in a personal injury lawsuit, the court will enter a judgment against the responsible party. He/she will then be obligated to pay you the awarded amount of money. However, collecting a monetary judgment may become a challenge since the court is not responsible for collection of the personal injury judgment - it becomes your sole responsibility. There are however certain court-based procedures to assist you in collecting on a judgment.
If the responsible party/judgment debtor refused to make a voluntary payment of the full amount of the judgment or make payments arrangement, you may proceed in attempt to enforce the debtor to pay.
A judgment entered in Florida generally may be enforced within 20 (twenty) years from the date the judgment was entered by various ways:
- You may place a lien on a judgment debtor's non-exempt (non-homestead) real estate in any county for a period of 7 (seven) years. Such lien may further be extended for an additional period of 7 years upon expiration of the prior lien as long as the combined lien period does not exceed 20 years.
- You also may be entitled to have a sheriff seize the judgment debtor's property. The seizing of property by the sheriff is called a levy. Once the sheriff has levied on the property, the sheriff will then sell it, and pay you out of the money the sheriff receives from the sale.
- You may be able to garnish the debtor's bank account. Certain accounts are exempt from garnishment, such as those held jointly with someone who has no responsibility to pay the judgment.
- You may collect on a personal injury judgment by garnishing a portion of the debtor's wages directly from his/her employer.
Additionally, if the personal injury judgment resulted from a motor vehicle accident when the debtor was driving without valid insurance, you may seek a suspension of his/her driver's license until the judgment is satisfied.
Since court-based collection procedures can be slow and costly, and the collection results ultimately depend on whether the personal injury debtor has any non-exempt assets to go after. If the at-fault driver carried any bodily injury coverage, it is sometimes better to accept it as a guaranteed payment of your damages rather than to engage in a potentially unsuccessful pursuit of the entire amount.
In situations like these, Joe Horrox Law will always conduct an asset check on the at-fault driver prior to accepting any available bodily injury limits to ensure that there are no other sources of recovering the full extent of the damages.
Please do not hesitate to contact the Daytona Beach law offices of Joe Horrox Law at 386-258-2121 for a free, no obligation consultation to ensure your rights are fully protected.