What is a Judgment?
When a party “wins” a civil case, they may be awarded monetary compensation by the court. The compensation is often a “judgment.” Judgments can include compensation of damages and the costs/fees associated with the lawsuit. After a court issues a judgment, the plaintiff becomes the creditor, and the defendant becomes a debtor.
Collecting the judgment is the responsibility of the plaintiff/creditor. The defendant/debtor can pay the plaintiff/creditor immediately and satisfy the judgment. Sometimes the defendant/debtor refuses to satisfy the judgment or does not have the money. If that happens, Maryland law has options for the plaintiff/creditor to collect the money owed to them.
The first step to collecting your judgment is to record it. The judgment is automatically recorded in the court that heard your case. There are three different options for collecting the judgment:
- Garnish the debtor’s wages
- Garnish the debtor’s bank account
- Seizing the debtor’s personal property or real estate
More information on the various options can be found in the article on Collecting a Judgment. The judgment may need to be recorded in other courts if the debtor’s property is in a different county or state.
Keep in mind that all approaches to collecting a judgment must comply with Maryland law. Even if you are owed money, you are not allowed to act illegally to collect the debt owed to you. For more information, see the article on Debt Collectors and the Law.
In general, you should try to collect the judgment as soon as possible. As time goes by, it may be harder to keep track of the person who owes you money. There are some important milestones to be aware of:
- Wait until the appeal period is over. After a judgment is entered, there is an automatic stay in place for 10 days. That is, the judgment cannot be collected for 10 days. Additionally, the judgment is stayed if the case is appealed. The defendant has 30 days to file an appeal. A good rule of thumb is to wait 30 days before attempting to collect the judgment.
Read the Rules: Md. Rules 2-632, 3-632, 7-104, 8-202
- Act before the time limit on collecting a judgment expires. You have 12 years to collect your judgment. However, you can renew the judgment by contacting the court again. You must renew it before the judgment expires.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, § 5-102(a)(3); Md. Rule 2-625 and 3-625
Judgments are satisfied when money is paid to the plaintiff. When the defendant pays the amount owed to the plaintiff, the plaintiff has to give the defendant and file with the clerk a written statement that the judgment has been satisfied.