If the plaintiff wins judgement against me for unsecured debt but I cannot pay, how do they go about satisfying their judgement?

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If the plaintiff wins judgement against me for unsecured debt but I cannot pay, how do they go about satisfying their judgement?

What steps would they try and take against me? I want to know what to be prapred for. In case it matters, I don’t own a home, car, don’t have any income coming in, what money I do have is in my savings account and according to Massachusetts state laws, it’s exempt. I am mainly worried about my personal belongings and being arrested if I can’t pay.

Asked on June 19, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You can't be arrested or jailed for not paying a civil debt--not unless there was evidence that you actually committed a crime in incurring the debt (e.g. criminal fraud, embezzlement, theft) and the state brings a criminal prosecution against you. The civil lawsuit itself, however, cannot result in prison for  nonpayment.

Personal belongings can be executed upon, or seized and sold for the creditor's benefit. Unless some of them are "big ticket" or high value items (e.g. ATVs, big screen TVs, certain other high-value electronics, fine furniture, jewlery), it is not likely that the creditor would bother.

Your wages may be garnished: MA allows a creditor, armed with a judgment and the appropriate court order, to take a portion of your income, apart from certain exempt funds (like social security); however, this does not appear to be an issue for you.

Bear in mind that a judgment can be enforced for years to come: if your economic situation improves, the creditor may be able to seek to collect from you later.


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