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Personal Injury

Collecting Damages After a Judgment

November 29, 2019

Through the able handling of your claim by a skilled and experienced Billings personal injury attorney, you have successfully presented your case to the Montana trial court. The jury has returned its verdict in your favor and the judge has entered a judgment on that verdict. What now? How do you go about collecting the judgment?  The answer can depend upon one or more important issues.

Issue No. 1: Does the Defendant Have Sufficient Insurance Coverage to Pay the Judgment?

If your judgment is the result of an injury in an auto accident, chances are the defendant has at least some level of liability insurance that can be utilized to pay all or at least a portion of the judgment amount. In Montana, for example, all auto owners must maintain personal injury coverage of at least $25,000 per person injured (a minimum of $50,000 in coverage for all persons injured in the accident collectively).

Issue No. 2: Do You have Additional Insurance That Might be Use?

When it comes to damages owed to you because of an automobile accident, if the defendant has insufficient insurance coverage (or no coverage at all), you may have insurance protection of your own in the form of uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage that may be utilized by your Billings personal injury attorney, Since this form of “extra” insurance can be waived by a policyholder, some residents of Montana don’t have this protection.

Issue No. 3: Does the Defendant Have Assets That Can Be Used to Pay Your Damages?

Where the Montana defendant doesn’t have sufficient insurance to pay the judgment debt, the defendant may nevertheless have other assets that can be utilized to meet the defendant’s obligation to you. For example, through the assistance of a skilled Billings personal injury attorney, you may discover that the defendant has real estate within Montana. Bear in mind that the real estate laws are quite complex and the judgment creditor’s rights can vary from situation to situation. Generally speaking, however, the judgment becomes an automatic lien on any real estate the defendant owns in the county where the judgment was originally entered by the judge. If real property is located in another Montana county, the judgment can be recorded there as well. You may be able to foreclose the judgment lien in full or partial satisfaction of the judgment debt, much like a real estate lender might foreclose a mortgage on property. In most instances, a judgment lien remains in force for ten years. If the judgment debtor sells the property, the new buyer’s title remains subject to your lien.

Issue No. 4: Does the Defendant Own a Business in Montana or Elsewhere?

Although your judgment does not automatically become a lien on the personal property or business assets of the defendant, if the defendant has an ongoing business, through diligent effort, you may be able to reach bank accounts, accounts receivable, and other assets to satisfy the debt owed to you. Note that with individuals, the State of Montana protects debtors with some special, specified exemptions. Exempted property generally cannot be forcefully liquidated to pay the debt owed to you.

You May be Allowed Interest on the Unpaid Debt

Under some circumstances, Montana law provides for the accrual of interest on unpaid judgments. That may take some of the sting out of the delay in liquidating the debt owed to you. In most cases, however, you’ll need the assistance of a patient and thorough Billings personal injury attorney to recover interest over and above your judgment.

Get a Top-Notch Billings Personal Injury Attorney Both Before and After the Verdict

Moving your case through the courts to a successful judgment requires the skills of an experienced attorney. Collecting on that judgment after the successful verdict has been obtained generally demands high legal skills as well. For many years now, personal injury victims have sought out the services of Ragain & Clark, PC. The firm’s attorneys have the skill and resilience required to represent your interests effectively.