Often, people find themselves in a situation where someone owes them money, but refuses to pay. Clients often expect the process of collecting a debt that is clearly owed to be simple and straightforward. But unfortunately, as is often the case with the law, it is anything but. The process for debt collection is lengthy and complicated to say the least.
First, you, as the creditor, may make a demand for payment from the debtor under threat of a lawsuit. If the money is not paid, you may proceed with a lawsuit. You will have to follow through with the lawsuit by proving the accused owes the debt1)including the correct amount and obtain a judgment from which you may then collect. Once you get the judgment, if s/he still does not pay willingly, you may conduct a judgment debtor’s exam to acquire all of the debtor’s relevant information; where s/he works, what assets s/he has, whether the property may be exempt from collection and any other relevant factors that may weigh in on your collection of the debt.
How the debt collection process works
Keep in mind that the state of the Nevada lists many exemptions of property that you may not take from the debtor to ensure the debtor is not left destitute. But, notwithstanding those exemptions, you may levy bank accounts, take items of personal property2)not you, but a sheriff's deputy, place a lien on a house, and garnish wages all within the specific constraints of the law. The process at this stage is quite complicated because you need a government entity, such as a sheriff to actually take the property as you may not do it yourself. With each step, there are specific pleadings that need to be filed and served to make sure you are not wrongfully taking property. Although this may seem bizarre since the person owes you money, the legislature has created many protections against “self help” to prevent people from going to someone’s house and taking property to get the value of their money back. There are many possibilities to take property and sell it to get your money back and your attorney can discuss the pros and cons of each.
If you are afraid the debtor might hide assets from you early on, you might need to “attach” or freeze the property prior to obtaining a judgment. Before you may do this, you need to prove to the court that you are in fact owed the money and there is a likelihood that s/he will hide assets.
Client-creditors always want the debtor to pay their attorneys’ fees, but unless you had some type of previous agreement providing for this, it is unlikely you will be able to collect the fees. In certain cases, you might be able to get your attorneys’ fees paid, but each case is different and depends on the unique circumstances.
In the future, before you lend money, have a lawyer draw up a contract with terms that benefit you such as interest owed, specific time limits for repayment, and a provision for payment of your attorneys’ fees if you have to seek legal action.
Each step of collection is so complicated, between filing deadlines, procedural hurdles, and proper documentation that it is always best to hire an experienced attorney to ensure that you are paid back the money you deserve.
In some cases, it may be the case that there is no money to collect from the debtor. But, if you continue to renew your judgment you will preserve your right to collect until such time that the debtor does have assets.
For reliable assistance with the debt collection process, contact us for a free consultation.