Failure to pay

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Failure to pay

I received a default judgement in a small claims case involving a car accident. The driver was operating a company car. I was unable to find the driver again so my case was against the owner of the vehicle, the company. The defendant did not pay. I filed for a Judgment Debtor’s Assets but the owner didn’t show up to court again. There is a bench warrant issued for him but what is the likelihood the sheriff will enforce this warrant? If I can find out where the company banks I would file for a bank levy. However, I have not been able to find out any information on where the company banks. The insurance company for the vehicle refuses to pay, even though their client has been found a fault. How do I proceed?

Asked on December 12, 2016 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You don't really have any good options:
1) Sheriffs departments are legally obligated to enforce these warrants in aid of collection, but are notoriously bad about doing so. The warrants have very little priority to them, as opposed to dealing with crimes. So they may or may not actually enforce this, and if they do, it could take many months, and you have no control over this.
2) The vehicle's insurer's duty is not to you directly, but to their client: i.e. their contract is not with you, but with the vehicle's owner, their insurered. *He* could sue them if they won't pay on his behalf, leaving him to pay out-of-pocket a covered claim, but you have no legal right to force them to pay.
Sometimes it is very time consumming, and sometimes even impossible, to collect on small claims cases when the other side is  deadbeat and refuses to pay, or else has so litle in the way of assets or income that they cannot pay. If you know of any real estate the debtor owns, you can put a lien on it; if you know of the location and identity of vehicles owned by them, it is possible to sometimes--IF they are owned outright, and not leased or financed--have those seized for the debt; but those are about your only options.
Possibly you can find a collections agency that will buy the debt from you for a fraction of its amount--the agency then takes on the cost and risk of collection, and makes its money if/when they collect. You will only get some of what you are owed, but that is better than nothing.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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