Numerous issues can make someone unable to pay their bills for things like credit cards, utilities, auto loans, or other debts. In certain instances, rather than working with you on repayment, a creditor could take you directly to court. This could lead to having a judgment against you, sometimes just because you were unable to appear or did not understand the proceedings. Your situation may seem hopeless, but Ohio law provides you with options, even after the judgment is already entered with the court. If you didn’t have legal representation in the underlying proceedings, it’s not too late to retain an Ohio judgment lawyer to assist with the creditor’s judgment collection efforts.
Financial woes can be overwhelming, especially if you’re trying to go it alone. At Luftman, Heck & Associates, our Ohio debt collection attorneys have extensive knowledge of the Ohio judgment laws and the skills to take on heavy legal burdens. Please contact us today at (888) 726-03181 or via our online form to schedule a free consultation.
What is a Judgment?
Under Ohio law, a judgment is a final decision on a financial controversy between a creditor as plaintiff and debtor as the defendant. It’s essentially the result of what happens in a court case when the creditor sues you over an outstanding debt and wins. For example, if your credit card company pursues this option, it may lead to a credit card judgment being filed against you. Once the judgment is entered, it becomes a legal obligation to pay the amount listed in the final order.
Overview of Ohio Judgment Laws
To obtain a judgment, a creditor must follow the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure for initiating a lawsuit. Specifically, the plaintiff must file a Complaint describing the dispute and requesting legal relief. In addition, the plaintiff must arrange to give you legal notice of the lawsuit. This involves someone personally serving you with a Summons, the Complaint, and any support documents. As the defendant, you have 28 days to file an Answer to the allegations in the Complaint.
Ways a Judgment may be Rendered
A judgment is any court decision regarding the rights and liabilities of the parties involved in a legal proceeding or action. Therefore, judgments can arise in various ways. These include direct verdict judgments where a judge or jury issues a decision or a judgment on the pleadings, where the court makes ruling as a matter of law. While these are among the most common ways a judgment may be rendered in a debt action, depending on the underlying claims, others may include:
- Default Judgment: This is a judgment that results after not answering the plaintiff’s complaint, or not taking other action to defend yourself, within the 28 days allowed by law.
- Consent Judgment: If you’re able to come to an agreement with the creditor on a repayment plan, you may work out this type of judgment. An official judgment is entered against you, but the creditor agrees not to pursue collection as long as you pay according to the plan.
- Summary Judgment: This may apply after the plaintiff files a complaint and you file your answer. Either party can move to have a judgment ordered, without trial, because the documents themselves are sufficient proof in the case.
How Do I Know if There’s a Judgment Against Me?
One way to find out if there’s a judgment against you is to call the clerk in the Ohio court where the lawsuit was filed, or conduct a public records search. You could also wait to receive word that a judgment was entered, but there could be unfortunate consequences. Instead of doing nothing, it’s a better strategy to discuss your options with an Ohio judgment lawyer.
Because the plaintiff must officially serve you with the Summons and Complaint, you should be aware that a lawsuit has been filed long before a judgment is entered. However, our judgment attorneys often handle cases where individuals were not properly served, yet have judgments against them. If you didn’t receive the necessary documents, or the plaintiff failed to comply with the Rules of Civil Procedure, you may be able to have the judgement vacated and given a chance to respond.
What Happens When There is a Judgment Against You?
Even after obtaining a judgment, the plaintiff must still go through a complicated process to enforce it. Your creditor would do so through judgment collection efforts, such as:
- Wage Garnishments: A creditor can gain access and withdraw funds from your personal paycheck. The garnishment process begins by serving the garnishee, your employer, with the necessary paperwork. The garnishee must pay funds to the court through deductions from your paycheck, and these amounts are then turned over to your creditor. Your employer can dispute garnishment based upon exemptions, but in no case will your wages be garnished above 25 percent of your earnings.
- Bank Account Garnishment and Liens: Creditors also have the power to garnish your bank accounts or issue a lien against the proceeds. The process is very similar to a wage garnishment, except that a bank lien is a one-time event.
- Liens on Real Property: Though it’s a more expensive and complicated process, creditors who are owed a significant amount may opt to file a lien on your real property. This means that, if and when you go to sell, your creditor gets the judgment amount and interest out of the proceeds.
Can You Settle a Judgment?
Even after a judgment is entered against you, a creditor may be amenable to settling the matter and filing a satisfaction of judgment with the court. As described above, the costs of enforcement through garnishment, attachment, or lien can be expensive and time-consuming. In some cases, a creditor would prefer to work out an agreement rather than undergo further hassle. From your perspective, a settlement may be beneficial as well. You can avoid the embarrassment of a wage garnishment with your employer, and your assets aren’t encumbered. Still, it’s critical to consult with an Ohio judgment attorney before entering into any agreement. You could unknowingly put your rights and future in jeopardy.
Do Judgments Ever Go Away?
If a creditor obtains a judgment, the matter becomes a public record and is reported on your credit report. It won’t go away for seven years after it is entered, unless it wasn’t entered legally. Note that, when that time period expires, it’s usually up to you to take action to remove it. You may consider retaining legal help for this process
Ohio Judgment Lawyer Jeremy Heck Can Help. Call for Free Consult Today.
The Luftman, Heck & Associates consumer law attorneys are on your side. Get answers to your questions and concerns by contacting Luftman, Heck & Associates Consumer Law attorneys today at (888) 726-3181 or contact us online.