Collecting a Small Claims Court Judgment
How Do you Collect a Small Claims Court Judgment in Washington?
You recently won your lawsuit in Small Claims Court! Congratulations! Unfortunately, you realize that a month has now passed. Despite the judge ordering the other side to pay you money damages, you have recovered nothing from them. In fact, you have actually paid out of pocket court costs to get where you now are. You are not alone. Many people never realize that the real work actually starts now. This article explores the options you have to collect a Small Claims judgment in Washington.
As you may now realize, a money judgment in your favor does not necessarily mean that the money will be paid voluntarily. Neither the Small Claims Court nor the judge who heard your case will collect the money for you. However, if no appeal is filed by the judgment debtor and the judgment is not paid within thirty days, or within the timeframe set by the court in a payment plan, you still have options. At the Law Office of Patrick C. Burpee, LLC, since attorneys for the most part are not permitted to represent their clients in Small Claims Court, we typically begin working for you thirty days after the judgment was entered in your favor.
Our attorney can transfer your small claims judgment into the civil docket of the district or superior courts of Washington, whichever one will increase the chance of collecting your judgment. After the small claims judgment has been docketed within one of these courts, our attorney can employ a variety of post judgment collection techniques, such as garnishment of wages, bank accounts or other funds the defendant may have. Additionally, in Washington, our attorney can pursue writs of execution on cars, boats, or other personal property of the judgment debtor.
If the judgment debtor owns real estate, we can make sure the judgment becomes a valid lien on the judgment debtor's real property. If they move to another county in Washington, we can transfer the judgment to their new county of residence. Thus, even if the judgment debtor can't pay now, they may end up paying later when they attempt to sell their home. In Washington, a judgment from a district or superior court is automatically valid for ten year. Further, prior to the expiration of the ten-year period, you have the right to renew the judgment for another ten years.
Another successful collection technique is for our attorney to conduct a supplemental examination of the judgment debtor. A supplemental examination can be helpful when you don't have any asset information on the judgment debtor. Once the judgment debtor is sworn under oath by the judge, they must provide their asset information. Additionally, if the judgment debtor decides not to show up for the supplemental examination hearing, you have the right to have a bench warrant issued for their arrest. In fact, after the sheriff processes the order for warrant, it is only a matter of time before the judgment debtor gets picked up, arrested, and required to post a bond. After that, the judgment debtor must then show up for the next scheduled hearing date and provide their asset information.
Of course, everyone is always concerned about attorney fees to collect the judgment. Fortunately, Washington law (RCW 12.40.105) provides that if a party fails to pay a small claims judgment within thirty days (or within the period otherwise ordered by the court), the prevailing party is entitled to their costs incurred to enforce the judgment, including their attorney fees! With this law in place, why let a small claims judgment remain uncollected?
In summary, don't feel like you have to give up just because your small claims judgment has been ignored. We can help. Contact our attorney to discuss legal assistance in collecting your Small Claims Judgment.
The Law Office of Patrick C. Burpee, LLC is a federally designated debt relief agency. We assist consumers with filing for bankruptcy under the Federal Bankruptcy laws.
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