Small Claims Court FAQ
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Will I get paid if I win the lawsuit?
6. Will I get paid if I win the lawsuit?
Not necessarily. The court may decide in your favor, but it won't handle collection for you. So before you sue, always ask, "Can I collect if I win?" If not, think twice before suing.
Ask yourself whether the person you're suing has a steady job, valuable real property, or investments. If so, it should be reasonably easy to collect by garnishing his wages if you win.
But some people and businesses are "judgment proof" -- that is, they have little money and few assets and aren't likely to acquire much in the foreseeable future. If they don't pay voluntarily, you may have a hard time collecting your judgement. For people who seem to have no job or assets, ask whether they are likely to be more solvent in the future, since court judgments are good for 10 to 20 years in many states and can usually be renewed for longer periods. You'll want to consider now whether the person might inherit money, graduate from college and get a good job, or otherwise have an economic turn-around sometime down the road. For more, see Nolo's Representing Yourself in Court area.