Collecting Damages When the Party at Fault is Broke or Bankrupt

If you are the victim of an accident where someone else caused injury or damages, it’s a natural reaction to seek compensation. But what if the person at fault doesn’t have any money? Many victims wonder about the possibility of filing a lawsuit against someone who doesn’t seem to have the means to pay for the damages.

The financial situation of the party at fault may complicate a personal injury or wrongful death suit. If that person is broke or has declared bankruptcy, it does not necessarily ruin the chances of collecting compensation. Let’s take a closer look at these complex lawsuit situations.

What if the Person Liable is Broke?

When requesting monetary compensation for an injury or damages, the financial status of the person or business at fault may be an important factor. Assets, income, savings and property are often required to cover the full amount of the settlement or determined damages.

Most Types of Personal Injury Lawsuits

How can you sue someone if they don’t have any money? That’s a good question. If the person at fault has a low income and few assets, heavy compensation may not be awarded or may turn out to be impossible to collect. This is true even if the case is settled fairly or ruled in your favor. There is some good news, however.

Insurance Coverage

First, insurance coverage may cover the judgment amount. In car accidents, for example, if the driver at fault has liability insurance, it should cover the expenses related to an injury they caused up to the set coverage limit. In states like Ohio, the driver liable for an accident is responsible for paying the expenses incurred. Any amount remaining after insurance coverage is applied can be collected from the driver’s income or assets.

Future Income & Assets

Second, the financial situation of the person liable may improve. Personal injury judgments are collectible for a number of years and earn interest when they go unpaid.
Plus, According to the statute of limitations in Ohio, an individual has up to two years from the time of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. If the liable person has a significant increase in income or assets within that two-year period, that may prove to be a better time to file a claim.

Means of Collection

Third, the court provides us with some tools which can help collect damages in these cases. If the liable party doesn’t hand over compensation voluntarily, the legal system can attempt resolve the matter through:

  • Wage garnishment: In Ohio, up to 25% of a person’s income or wages can be claimed each pay period. This amount goes towards paying the determined amount of damages.
  • Business income: A company’s regular income can be seized in order to meet their financial obligations.
  • Liquidate assets: Some types of personal or company property can be leveraged in order to cover the amount. Real estate, vehicles, equipment, machinery and financial investments are a few examples.
  • Liens: The court may allow you to place a lien on their property. This legally obligates the owner to pay the amount once the property has been sold.
  • Professional licenses: In some states, the liable party could lose their license to do business if they fail to pay the determined amount.

Wrongful Death Cases

This type of personal injury case is a common exception. In wrongful death cases, the damages are usually paid by the insurance company of the person at fault. Insurance coverage which includes liability coverage for injury or death typically ranges from $100,000 to $500,000. The person responsible for the accident would only be required to pay if the determined amount is over that set limit or if they don’t have sufficient insurance.

What if the Person Liable Has Declared Bankruptcy?

Other clients have asked, “can I sue someone who has filed for bankruptcy?” Getting reimbursed for your loss in a personal injury case will most likely be complicated if the person at fault declares bankruptcy.

When someone files for bankruptcy, the judge issues an automatic stay. This effectively blocks collection efforts for most types of debt. In most cases, the stay will also put a hold on their obligation to repay personal injury damages. As bankruptcy proceedings continue, the judge will decide if the judgement amount will be forgiven or if the plaintiff can continue with the lawsuit and collections.

One notable exception to this rule is if the person at fault was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident. Injuries, damages or death caused in this way may still be awarded compensation. Bankruptcy courts often allow this type of lawsuit to move forward.

Hire an Experienced Legal Representative

Consult with a skilled team of attorneys to find out if you are entitled to compensation for an injury or accident. The lawyers at Amourgis & Associates will provide support throughout the legal process and focus on collecting fair compensation for your loss. With 19 offices around Ohio, we are ready to help you. Contact us online or at 800-444-1967.

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