Successfully suing the person or business who is responsible for causing a personal injury takes time and expertise. For cases that don’t settle but instead go to trial, success for the plaintiff means obtaining a court judgment against the defendant. In a personal injury case the court order typically requires the defendant to pay the expenses associated with an injury—medical bills, lost earnings, and other costs that have been or will be incurred by the plaintiff during the recovery process. But a court’s judgment is just a piece of paper. Collecting on a judgment often requires more.
A court judgment is not always a remedy
Many injured plaintiffs are often disappointed to learn that a court’s favorable ruling doesn’t immediately resolve the financial challenges associated with their injuries. Unless the defendant raises a valid appeal, a court’s judgment is a binding order against the defendant. The plaintiff has become a creditor of the defendant, similar to a lender. But some defendants refuse to pay, perhaps because they lack the financial resources to do so. When that happens, the plaintiff is responsible for ensuring that the judgment is enforced. The court will not, by itself, take further steps to force the defendant to pay.
Strategies for collecting on a judgment
In Nevada a prevailing plaintiff has six years from the date of the court’s order to enforce a judgment. If enforcing the judgment is taking longer than six years the plaintiff can request an extension of time. NRS 11.190(1)(a). There are several paths a creditor can pursue to recover on a judgment in Nevada.
- Wage garnishment. In Nevada creditors can obtain a court order to garnish a delinquent debtor’s wages (a so-called writ of garnishment). A wage garnishment order requires an employer to withhold money from the debtor’s paycheck and instead pay it to the creditor. State law places a strict cap on how much of a person’s wages can be garnished: 25% of the debtor’s disposable earnings, or the amount by which the debtor’s earnings exceed 50 times the federal minimum hourly wage, whichever is less . NRS 31.295. Of course, in many situations a defendant will not have earnings sufficient to compensate the plaintiff for anywhere close to the amount of a judgment.
- Seizing property. A creditor may also ask the court to issue a writ of execution against certain property of the defendant, which allows the creditor to take possession of the property. A writ of execution must specify the property to be seized, such as cash in a certain bank account, a certain car, or other property. Writs of execution are subject to a range of rules and procedures, in part to ensure that a bank or other institution can rely upon them when handing over an individual’s assets. They are also subject to a wide range of exceptions to ensure that the debtor isn’t left homeless or unable to provide for dependents. See NRS Chapter 21.
- Filing property liens. Another option for creditors is to file liens against certain assets of a debtor. A lien places a publicly available claim on property, such as a car or a piece of real estate, that must be cleared before the owner can sell the property. It can be an effective backstop against a debtor who owns a home, because the lien will complicate selling the home or using it as collateral on a loan.
GGRM helps clients get the compensation they deserve
For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented injured clients in the Las Vegas area. We are passionate about helping our clients get back on their feet after an injury. That often involves taking steps to enforce a judgment. If you have been injured or you’re having difficulty collecting on a judgment, call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.