How Do You Enforce a Judgment in Texas?
After months or years, it is a relief when the court issues an award for damages in a personal injury case. It is validation that your claim was legitimate and is an opportunity to pay off debts. But, what if the defendant won't pay? Unfortunately, you'll need to go through hurdles to collect the money owed. Fortunately, the law is on your side.
Post-judgment discovery allows you to ascertain the extent and disposition of the defendant's assets. It's very similar to the pre-trial discovery process for your personal injury claim. During the process, the defendant, or debtor, may be required to provide information about real property, physical assets, bank accounts, etc. If they fail to respond, the court can grant a motion to compel and/or a motion for contempt. The court also has the discretion to issue sanctions against the debtor for their failure to answer. This can include paying your attorney's fees, court fines, and even jail time.
Once you know the disposition of physical property, including real estate, vehicles, art collections, etc., you can place judgment liens on these. However, know that some assets in Texas are referred to as "judgment proof" up to a total of $30,000 for an individual and $60,000 for a family. Anything above this amount is known as nonexempt property, and you can place a lien on them for a period of up to 10 years. This can be renewed if the debt is not satisfied.
It's quite possible that a defendant doesn't have sufficient physical assets to seize to cover the damages you were awarded. When this occurs, you can file a writ of garnishment. This allows you to collect your funds gradually, over time, directly from the debtor's bank account until the debt is satisfied. In Texas, garnishments are limited to a maximum of 50% of the debtor's disposable income.
Or, File a Writ of Execution
A writ of execution is faster and more aggressive than liens and garnishments. This can be filed with the court clerk 30 days after receiving a judgment. this approach involves the sheriff, who will be tasked with seizing the defendant's nonexempt property up to a total value of what is owed to the plaintiff.
Do you have concerns about collecting a judgment in Texas? Contact Welmaker Injury Law at (726) 666-6666, and we will be happy to answer your questions.