One of the biggest reasons someone might not go to a personal injury law firm is that the defendant says they're judgment-proof. This is when the defendant asserts that they're essentially so broke that the claimant wouldn't get a nickel regardless.
Personal injury lawyers encourage their clients to not feel discouraged in these situations. The American legal system does try to account for this kind of scenario, and here are three things an attorney will consider doing to address the situation.
Check for Insurance
The best first move is to find out whether the defendant is even the person to make this decision. Suppose you had a slip-and-fall accident at a family restaurant. If the business is insured, the simplest solution may be to forget about the restaurant owner's statements entirely and take the claim directly to their insurance provider.
Whether the owner of the business likes it or not, the insurance company will appoint a claims adjuster. The adjuster will review the details of the case to decide if your claim is valid. Presuming the case looks fine to the adjuster, they will send a settlement offer to the personal injury law firm representing your interests.
Determine If the Defendant Is Lying
Yes, there are people who are big enough jerks to lie about being judgment-proof just to see if they can discourage someone from suing them. It's worth making them prove that they're broke. If necessary, you can attempt to take them to court, get a judgment, and show what assets and income they have that might go toward compensation.
A judge will order the defendant to produce documentation attesting to their financial circumstances. If they try to hide anything and are caught, the court may place a lien on the property in question and even charge them with perjury and fraud.
You've Received a Court Judgment. Now What?
If the court has entered a judgment against a defendant who insists they can't pay, the judge has a few options. Ideally, the defendant will set up a payment plan that's fair to the plaintiff.
When this isn't possible, the court can place a lien on all properties, accounts, and other assets the defendant owns. The plaintiff has the right to then take possession of the assets with the option to either retain or sell them. A judge might also elect to garnish the defendant's wages if they lack sufficient assets to pay the judgment in full.
To learn more, contact a resource like Snyder & Wenner, P.C.