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How Do I Collect a Personal Injury Judgment From a Defendant?

Picture of a Gavel and the Scales of Justice

If you have suffered personal injury and already won a judgment for financial recovery in a personal injury suit from a defendant, then you may feel like your job is done. But the most challenging aspect of your road to financial recovery may be just starting. Although a judge or jury may have found in your favor in proving negligence and an order handed down directing the defendant to pay you a certain amount of money for your injuries, the job of actually getting the defendant to make that payment to you still needs to be completed.

Ideally, a defendant will voluntarily and swiftly follow through on complying with the court’s order by paying you, but presumably you wouldn’t be reading this far if that had occurred. And a judge will not walk the defendant to the ATM or bank and watch until cash or a check is handed over. Thus, in many cases, the burden will lie on you, the injured plaintiff, to take further steps to enforce the judgment against the liable defendant.

Enforcing a Judgment Through a Bank Levy

One of the more dependable ways to force a defendant to pay up on his judgment to you is through placing a levy on the defendant’s bank accounts, which will in essence freeze the funds in that account. The first step in placing such a levy is to locate the account itself and the account number which can be accomplished through a debtor examination (a second court action in which the defendant will be forced to appear and respond to questions under oath regarding the location of accounts) or through finding this information via other channels.

Once the account and information is located, then it will be necessary to prepare a series of legal documents authorizing the levy, including: 1) a Writ of Execution; 2) Notice of the Levy; 3) instructions to the bank for how the levy should be executed; 4) certain affidavits that may need to be included; 5) a list of exempted funds not subject to the levy, if the defendant is a natural person (CA allows some types of funds such as government benefits to be exempt from bank levies); and 6) any other applicable documents.

A sheriff or process server should then serve these documents on the bank where the account is held and present the bank with a “Memorandum of Garnishee” document. A bank representative will fill this document out and state whether or not the bank will comply with the levy.

Legal Help in Executing a Bank Levy in California

As the brief overview above demonstrates, executing a bank levy can be a complicated process for a party unfamiliar with legal procedures in California. While it is not necessary to work with an attorney in executing a bank levy, an attorney experienced in collecting money judgments on behalf of personal injury victims can help you obtain the financial recovery you need efficiently through forceful means. In many cases, an experienced attorney can simply avoid the bank levy process altogether through strongly-worded correspondence with the defendant explaining what steps will occur if they do not immediately comply with paying you the judgment you are owed.

Pasadena personal injury attorney Andrew Ritholz has over 30 years of experience in not only winning recovery for personal injury victims but also collecting judgments on their behalf through bank levies and other means. Contact him today to schedule a consultation.

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