By not filing a written answer or appearance within the specified time, or by failing to attend the hearing, or by missing other deadlines, you may lose the opportunity to raise your defenses. This is usually called a “default judgment.”
Significance of a Court Judgment Against You. The judgment is what the court orders after hearing the case. If the collector wins, the judgment gives the collector the right to force you to pay using a variety of methods. A collector with a court judgment can arrange for the sheriff to seize certain items of your property. Because the collector is armed with a court judgment and is asking the sheriff to do the seizure, the collector can seize your property even though the collector had not taken that property as collateral for its loan. This is called “attachment and execution.” If the sheriff is able to seize your property, it will then be sold at public auction, and the part of the proceeds not exempt will go to the collector to help pay off the judgment. If property is sold at auction, you or your friends can attend the auction and re-purchase the possessions at a bargain price. After a sale, if the sale proceeds are not enough to pay the judgment in full, the collector may keep trying to collect the remainder.
Judgment Liens Can Stay on Your Real Estate for Years. Any unpaid judgment generally becomes a lien on any real estate you own in the county where the judgment is entered. Collectors can force a sale in much the same way as they can force the sale of other property. Even if the real estate is exempt from execution, the collector’s lien on your property usually remains in effect until you sell it. The collector’s lien is usually satisfied when the property is sold.
Garnishment of Bank Accounts. A collector with a court judgment against you has the right to “garnish” money belonging to you. In this context, to “garnish” means to take. Most often, garnishment takes money from your wages or bank account. After obtaining a judgment, the collector can file a request for garnishment with the sheriff. A notice is then issued to the “garnishee” (a bank, an employer), directing that party to turn over the money at a specified time.
Collectors Surprise Attack. Once a collector has a judgment against you, there are several methods that are deployed simultaneously in an attempt to collect on the judgment. The creditor may attempt to collect by the following methods:
- garnishing or attaching your wages;
- attaching your bank account;
- executing against personal property, or
- filing a lien against your real estate.
If you have unpaid debts, at some point the creditor or debt collector may sue you. While not all creditors will file a debt collection lawsuit, if you have income or assets that the creditor can grab, it is likely to sue you to get a judgment.