Is Your Verdict Collectable?
When someone is injured in an accident, they often think of their immediate needs and of the legal issues that they immediately have should they opt to pursue a personal injury case. That is natural and understandable. But a good personal injury lawyer will be looking a step ahead to what happens when and if there is a jury verdict in your favor. Can the defendant actually pay whatever it is that the jury orders them to pay?
Remember that ultimately, a verdict is just a sheet of paper, albeit one that parties are legally obligated to abide by. But as the old saying goes, you can‘t get water out of a rock; if the defendant can’t ever pay what is ordered, there is no debtors’ prison in America, and you can’t make someone have money they don’t otherwise have.
Of course, if you are suing a large company, paying a jury verdict may not be an issue. Fedex, the large grocery store chain, the local shopping mall, Amazon.com, or any number of large multimillion dollar companies have all the money they need to pay a verdict, regardless of whether they actually have insurance or not. In all likelihood, your injury case will not bankrupt a large, publicly traded national company.
The problem comes with smaller businesses that may not have the money to pay a verdict or that may not carry sufficient insurance. Even if the business does have sufficient insurance to pay a verdict, many times the insured company will point the finger of liability at a smaller, uninsured company or person. For example, the local mall may be insured, but if they say that your slip and fall was caused by a small uninsured cleaning company, there could be issues collecting a judgment.
Any business that is insured usually can be counted on to pay a judgment that it is ordered to pay. In most cases, insurance companies can and will pay, as they don’t want to risk getting in trouble with the state, or being sued by their insureds.
Car Accidents and Individuals
Car accidents can create some collection problems, because many people drive without insurance. And while a large business will usually be insured to a very high limit, individual car drivers will often opt to insure themselves for very small amounts of money. This can leave you pursuing an average person for exorbitant amounts of money.
Many individuals also get the benefit of state exemptions—that is, exceptions that prevent money or property from being collected from someone.
Whether it is worth the time and expense of collecting against an individual is a case by case determination. Regardless, it is always good practice to evaluate whether any verdict would be collectible, in the event that you do win your case at trial.
We can help you with your accident case from day one, all the way through trial if necessary. Call the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, to help if you are injured in any kind of accident.