The #1 Question Before Suing: What Can I Gain From This?

Civil court offers a remedy when parties feel they have been wronged. One party takes action against another by filing a lawsuit. But here is the thing: lawsuits don’t always turn out as expected. So every person or organization thinking of filing suit needs to ask and answer the #1 question of civil litigation: what can I gain from this?

It is pretty easy to issue threats of a lawsuit in the heat of an argument with someone else. It’s equally easy to sit at home or in your office thinking about how wonderful it would be to sue that person. But it is a completely different matter to honestly assess what you might gain from going to court.

Civil Courts Render Judgments

The first thing that must be clearly understood is that civil courts do not determine guilt or innocence. They only determine civil liability. You are not going to get a guilty conviction from a civil court. You might get some sort of judgment or award, but that’s it.

Instead of verdicts, civil courts render judgments. A judgment determines the liability of either or both parties along with corrective action. Any corrective action is designed to offer the aggrieved party sufficient relief. A classic example is a money judgment rendered against a deadbeat who doesn’t pay his bills.

One of this deadbeat’s creditors has sued him for payment. A judgment rendered against him officially recognizes the legitimacy of the debt and his legal responsibility to pay it. Obtaining the judgment is all the creditor needs to do to get paid, right? Wrong.

Courts Don’t Get Involved in Collection

For the most part, courts don’t get involved in collecting after the fact. They may be called upon for writs of seizure or garnishment orders, but they do not actually carry out the work of collecting monetary judgments. That work is left to the judgment creditor, his attorney, or a specialized collection agency.

One such agency is Salt Lake City-based Judgment Collectors. The agency operates in nearly a dozen states including Utah, Ohio, Missouri, and Michigan. When they go to work for a client, they assume all responsibilities for collecting. They search property records; they contact the debtor’s employer; they attempt to make contact when a debtor is proving to be uncooperative.

Collection Takes Time and Money

At first glance, it might seem like paying an organization like Judgment Collectors isn’t worth the money. It is cheaper to manage things in-house. But in the end, that might not be true at all. Even managing collections in-house costs time and money. And because time equals money in the business world, expenses go up when staff members are tasked with collections.

Imagine a small business assigning a judgment to the accounting staff. Even the most senior members in the accounting department do not have extensive collections experience. They don’t know the tools available to them, how to use the few tools they do know about, or even how to search public records to uncover debtor assets.

The amount of time and money they spend could end up being more than the actual judgment is worth. Then what has the company gained? Very little. In fact, the company has probably lost money on the deal.

Before You Build a House

There is an old English idiom that warns us to count the cost before building a house. It applies to collecting money judgments. Before you sue someone, count the cost. What could you possibly gain from a successful lawsuit? If your potential gains do not stand up to the potential losses, don’t sue.