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What Happens if an Uninsured Motorist Refuses to Pay Damages?

Filing a civil personal injury lawsuit for injuries suffered in a car accident can be a daunting and expensive process. Many civil trials can take years before they are complete. Receiving an award of damages can change the life of an injured party for the better. Unfortunately, defendants do not always comply with a court order to pay damages. What happens when a defendant refuses to comply with a court order to pay for damages?

Has the Defendant Filed an Appeal?

After the court makes a judgment against the defendant, the defendant may choose to appeal the decision. North Carolina Rules of procedure mandate that the defendant filed a notice of appeal either:

  • Within 30 days after the court enters judgment if the party has been served with a judgment copy if the court correctly served the defendant a copy of the judgment, or
  • Within 30 days after the court serves the defendant with a copy of the judgment.

If the defendant decides to file an appeal, the plaintiff cannot seek judgment until after a decision has been made in the appeal. If the defendant does not file an appeal, you can take action to try to collect the amount of damages to which you are entitled by court order.

Filing a Judgment Lien on North Carolina Property After a Judgment

Defendants may attempt to file for bankruptcy or transfer property out of their name in an attempt to dodge paying the judgment. North Carolina plaintiffs can file a judgment lien to ensure that he or she obtains the damages that they are due. A judgment lien allows the plaintiff, who is now a creditor of the defendant, the right to receive a specified amount of money from the proceeds of the sale of the defendant’s property.

In other words, the judgment lien attaches to the defendant’s real property, such as a house, land, or other property. If the defendant attempts to sell any of his or her real property, the plaintiff will have an automatic right to collect payment out of the proceeds from the sale.

Submit a Request for Payment

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC our attorneys have helped many clients obtain payments from a defendant who does not want to pay damages. Our attorneys can craft a business-like request for payment that specifies the amount still owed. The request may also point out that failure to pay the judgment will negatively affect the debtor's credit report.

Resort to Hiring a Debt Collector

If the defendant continues to fail to pay, you may need to resort to taking action to collect the debt. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC our attorneys can discuss the different options for wage collection after your personal injury lawsuit, which might include the following:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Property liens
  • Bank levies

After evaluating the facts in your case, we can advise you as to the best next steps. A North Carolina court has the power to order the defendant to answer questions under oath in a debtor’s exam or order of examination. Judges will ask questions as to the location, type, and value of his or her assets so you can more easily seize them to satisfy the judgment.

When attempting to collect a judgment, it is often easier to start with the seizing liquid assets such as wages, liquid cash in bank accounts, and money paid to the defendant’s business. Typically, it is easier and less expensive to collect these assets. Collecting on real estate, motor vehicles, and personal property can be more expensive, time-consuming, and complicated.

You May Need to Renew Your Judgment

Court judgments typically last between five and 20 years. If it is taking a long time to collect your judgment, you may need to renew your judgment and any recorded liens against the defendant. Failing to renew the judgment before it expires could result in the loss of an ability to collect in the future.

What if the Defendant Does Not Have Any Assets?

Perhaps the plaintiff does not have any money or assets with which to satisfy the judgment. In this case, plaintiffs may need to wait. At some point, they may get a well-paying job, receive an inheritance, or build equity in a house that he or she owns. The judgment amount will increase due to interest, as well. You could still pursue the judgment in five or 10 years.

The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have helped many plaintiffs collect on their judgments. Contact our law firm today to set up your free initial consultation at one of our three convenient locations in Charlotte, Mooresville and Monroe.

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