Let’s face it: the law is expensive. We usually don’t anticipate the worst happening, but Murphy’s Law states that if something can go wrong — it will go wrong. That’s why we should always try to save money for a rainy day. Most American families have little to no savings because they don’t make enough to save. This systemic shortsightedness of capitalism aside, what should you do if you can’t pay for a personal injury case?
First things first: Maybe you don’t have to pay. If you’re the plaintiff and want to sue someone for an injury their negligence caused you, then all you have to do is find yourself a qualified personal injury attorney. They almost always work on contingency, which means they don’t get paid unless you win — and that means you can afford to move on with the case.
On the other hand, you might be the defendant in a personal injury case. If you have no valuable assets, then more than likely a personal injury attorney won’t take the plaintiff’s case. Like we said, personal injury attorneys only make money by winning. That means they won’t usually take a case when they might lose or when the defendant wouldn’t have enough money to pay.
What happens when you don’t have the resources to pay for a personal injury case you already lost? attorneys sometimes call the defendant in these cases “judgment proof.” Basically, the debt from the settlement will be bounced to a collections agency. The defendant might receive calls from the repo man or a collections attorney.
When an attorney goes after you in court, they look to be reimbursed through several means. These include garnishing your wages by court order, taking your assets, or forcing you to sell real estate to pay back what you owe. When you don’t have assets or don’t make enough money for wage garnishment, your only option is to declare bankruptcy — and even then, it might not be enough to have your legal debts erased from the record.
Note that social security and disability income are personal benefits and cannot be collected by creditors or garnished. Another factor that matters is where you live, because different states have different laws to restrict what can and cannot be taken from a defendant who lost in court.
Questions? You can always call an attorney for free consultation. Don’t worry, you won’t be locked into yet another expenditure. Ask a collections attorney or personal injury attorney what options might be available to the parties they target in court!
Should you need to declare bankruptcy, you will also want to discuss the details of your debts with a bankruptcy lawyer. (Maybe you’ll even discover that bankruptcy isn’t the best option.) Yet another option? Walk to the bank and ask to speak about your financial situation. Or find an accountant. Maybe you do have the money you need — with a few minor adjustments to your everyday life.