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It’s Not Too Late to Deal with Your Debts
Even if a debt collection lawsuit resulted in a judgment against you, LHA is here to explain the paths you have to get back to normal life.
What is a Judgment?
Under Ohio law, a judgment is a final decision between a creditor (the plaintiff) and debtor (the defendant). It’s what happens when the creditor sues you over an outstanding debt and wins.
For example, if your credit card company sues you in a debt collection lawsuit, it may lead to a court order for 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.
Topics we’ll cover in the following video:
- What is a judgment?
- What happens when someone has a judgment against them?
How Does a Creditor Get a Judgment?
A creditor must follow the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure to obtain a judgment. Specifically, the plaintiff must file a Complaint describing the dispute and request legal relief.
In addition, the plaintiff must give you legal notice of the lawsuit. This involves 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. If you do not file a response, then the plaintiff will likely get a default judgment against you, which means you will not be able to present any defenses and plaintiff may begin garnishment procedures.
It is within the initial 28 days from receiving the summons and complaint that you should retain an attorney to present your defenses and possibly negotiate a settlement. If plaintiff prevails in proving its legal claims regarding the debt, then a judgment will be rendered in its favor and the plaintiff may begin garnishment proceedings.
Types of Debt Judgments in Ohio
A judgment is any court decision regarding the rights and liabilities of the parties involved. Therefore, judgments include direct verdict judgments where a judge or jury issues a decision or a judgment on the pleadings, where the court makes a ruling as a matter of law. While these are the most common debt judgments, depending on the underlying claims, others may include:
Result after you fail to respond to the lawsuit or “answer” it by not taking other action to defend yourself. In Ohio, you have 28 days to answer a lawsuit. The plaintiff is the person or entity who files the lawsuit, often the original judgment creditor or debt collection agency.
If you agree with the creditor on a repayment plan, you may work out a consent judgment. An official court-ordered judgment is entered against you, but the creditor agrees not to pursue collection as long as you pay according to the plan.
Applies after the plaintiff files a complaint and you file your answer. Either party can move to have a judgment granted without trial because the documents themselves are sufficient proof in the case.
The case could also proceed all the way to a trial. At the trial, either party could prevail. If the plaintiff prevails, then a judgment would be rendered and garnishment proceedings could begin.
Will I Know If There’s a Judgment Against Me?
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. 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 judgment vacated and given a chance to respond.
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.
Not Just Any Debt Attorney
As a founding partner of LHA, Jeremiah E. Heck is dedicated to protecting the rights of consumers. He is licensed to practice law in Ohio and can help you deal with a debt collection lawsuit or judgment.
What Happens After a Judgment Is Entered?
Even after obtaining a judgment for your debt, the plaintiff must still enforce it. Creditors do this through various judgment collection efforts, such as:
A creditor can gain access and withdraw funds from your paycheck. The garnishment process begins by serving the garnishee (you) and 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% of your earnings.
Creditors also have the power to garnish your bank accounts or issue a lien against the proceeds. The process is very similar to wage garnishment, except that a bank lien is only good for the funds currently it the bank account. A judgment creditor may however file successive judgment liens.
A judgment lien on real property is very common in the State of Ohio. A creditor may file a judgment lien as a matter of law after the judgment is rendered. This means that there is a valid and enforceable lien on any real property owned by the debtor. Although rare, this may result in the judgment creditor foreclosing on the real property. Otherwise, the judgment lien is enforced when a debtor attempts to sell his or her real property, whereby the creditor will get the amount of the judgment and interest out of the proceeds.
What Can You Do About a Debt Judgment?
If you have a judgment against you, you still have options.
Even after a judgment is entered, a creditor may be open to settling the matter and filing a satisfaction of judgment with the court. The costs of judgment enforcement through garnishment, attachment, or lien can be expensive and time-consuming. In some cases, a creditor would prefer to work out an agreement. From your perspective, a settlement may be beneficial as well. You can avoid wage garnishment, and your assets aren’t encumbered.
Personal bankruptcy can halt all legal action against you and wage garnishment and other debt collections. If you have creditors filing lawsuits against you or seeking judgments, then bankruptcy may be an option for you.
Do Judgments Ever Go Away?
Judgments are typically reported on your credit report for up to seven years, even after it’s resolved. But a judgment from an Ohio court is valid for 5 years, and then becomes dormant unless revived, giving creditors the ability to collect on judgments for much longer. Section 2325.18(B) sets Ohio’s statute of limitations for judgment enforcement at fifteen years.
Why Use a Judgment Attorney
If you are served with a lawsuit or a judgment has been made against you, you should consult a lawyer who can help you understand your options and protect your rights.
Negotiate for a Positive Result
After a judgment, you may still settle with the creditor. Your attorney can make a reasonable offer and try to negotiate the best outcome possible for you.
Representation in Debt Court
You will need legal representation to go to court. Otherwise, you may not know what to say or how to handle the situation. In some cases, it is possible to get a debt lawsuit dismissed, and you won’t owe anything at all.
Protect Your Rights
Even if you have a judgment against you, you have legal rights. If you have been treated unfairly or unlawfully harassed, an attorney can review your case and see if you have a counterclaim.