Having a civil judgment rendered against you in court is definitely a bad thing. If that judgment is a money judgment, you are on the hook until you pay up. Your creditor could utilize the services of a judgment collection agency to get its money. In addition, the collection agency has time. It can pursue collection for years.
Just how long can a collection agency pursue an unpaid judgment? That depends on the state in which the judgment was entered. But in most cases, a collection agency willing to work through the court system could pursue a debtor for the rest of their life. It rarely happens, but it theoretically could.
A Bit About Judgments
The first thing to note is that a judgment is nothing more than a court’s decision rendered at the conclusion of a civil trial. Courts will most often find in favor of one party and against the other. In rare occasions, there are no winners or losers as the court determines equal liability among both parties.
When a judgment involves some sort of monetary award or financial compensation, it is considered a money judgment. That is where collection agencies come in. According to Judgment Collectors in Utah, hiring a collection agency is just one option. Creditors can also:
attempt to collect themselves
turn collection over to their attorneys
wait and hope the debtor voluntarily pays on their own.
The third option is the least likely to happen. Just having to go to civil court suggests the debtor isn’t going to cooperate voluntarily. So that leaves debtors trying to collect themselves, giving the task to their attorneys, or hiring a collection agency.
Judgments and Statutes of Limitation
Even though judgments are the result of civil litigation rather than criminal, there are statutes of limitations involved. A statute of limitation on a judgment is essentially a time limit on collection. The limit is 7-10 years in most states. That is plenty of time for an experienced collection agency that knows how to utilize all the tools at its disposal.
Imagine being a judgment debtor facing collection efforts for the next decade. Do you really want a collection agency looking over your shoulder for that long? Are you prepared for the phone calls, letters, email contacts, etc.? Are you prepared to have your wages garnished?
It turns out that some judgment debtors are willing to go toe-to-toe with collection agencies for as long as it takes to get them to go away. Some of them believe that stretching things for the full 7-10 years will ultimately result in victory. That might be the case for a debtor avoiding the original judgment creditor. It is not the case when collection agencies are involved.
Judgments Can Be Renewed
Earlier, you read that a collection agency could theoretically pursue payment for a debtor’s entire lifetime. How is that possible with statutes of limitations built in? It is possible because judgments can be renewed. As long as the paperwork is filed prior to the original judgment’s expiration, it can be renewed for the same amount of time. And it can be renewed as many times as necessary.
While it is entirely possible for a collection agency to pursue an unpaid judgment indefinitely, most agencies can figure out a way to get payment within a couple of years. Debtors hoping to avoid paying until the statute of limitations runs out don’t know what they are getting into with an experienced judgment collection agency. That’s fine. Collection agencies probably prefer that debtors remain ignorant.