I have a judgment, but now what do I do?
Once you have a judgment it is natural to ask: now what? We can answer that. This isn’t a comprehensive explanation of how to collect, but rather to explain the broad strokes of garnishments. The writ of garnishment discussed here is only for those situations in which an actual judgment has been rendered by a Court.
Garnishments: seizing wages and bank accounts
The best way to enforce a judgment in most circumstances is through a writs of garnishment. These writs, or commands, are governed by RCW 6.27 . The general understanding of writs of garnishments for wages is mostly accurate: wages are withheld to pay debts.
Legally, a writ of garnishment is a command by the court to the “garnishee” to 1. inform the creditor how much money the garnishee is “indebted” to the debtor, and 2. to not pay that "indebtedness." Simply put, a writ of garnishment directs a bank or employer to withhold the funds owed to the judgment debtor to satisfy the creditor’s judgment.
The most important thing for a judgment creditor is to be able to collect as much as possible and as soon as possible. Bank garnishments have the potential for collecting the most money on the judgment in the quickest way, but only if the debtor has funds available. Bank garnishments take only what is in the bank when the garnishment is served. Employment garnishments continue to apply after they are served.
Frequently asked questions:
Can I recover attorney fees for the costs of a garnishment?
Yes, however you can only recover up to $300 in attorney fees. You cannot always recover even $300, but for judgments over $3,000 you can. Small claims judgments are unique and don't follow this rule as uniformly.
Why are there so many steps if the Court already determined that the debtor owes me money?
It is important to realize that the state legislature has certain protections for judgment debtors. Debtors wages are in part “exempt” such that there is a minimum amount of money that the judgment debtors will receive even when wages are being garnished. Furthermore, the various steps ensure accuracy and due process for all parties.
Should I hire an attorney?
Yes, and you should hire Baner and Baner Law Firm. Self-promotion aside it is usually best to hire an attorney to do garnishments. The process is not difficult, but it is technical. It requires at least one motion to the Court as well. Also, oftentimes small businesses do not understand the garnishment process fully and the creditor’s attorney is probably more capable of convincing them the proper route. Overall, you hire an attorney to avoid spending a large amount of time yourself trying to figure out the process and in the end you should be able to recover at least some of the attorney fees.
Jonathan Baner handles all of the firm's collection practice including garnishments, executions, attachments, lien foreclosures, etc. He has represented creditors and debtors in thousands of collection actions, but now focuses his efforts primarily assisting creditors.