A judgment is a court order for a defendant (judgment debtor) to pay a plaintiff (judgment creditor) a sum of money. Judgment creditors are often unable to collect the court-ordered sum. Because the collection of a judgment is often lengthy and frustrating, the judgment creditor can give up without seeing a penny of the money owed. Pennsylvania has laws that protect debtors; nevertheless, there are tactics that judgment creditors can employ to recover a judgment from a Pennsylvania debtor.
Retain an attorney well-versed in collections or enforcement of judgments. Enforcing a judgment is time-consuming and requires special knowledge of Pennsylvania legal procedures and laws protecting debtors.
Negotiate an installment plan to repay the debt. Your attorney should seek a court-ordered installment plan to repay the judgment. If the court is unwilling to order an installment repayment plan, have your attorney speak with the debtor or her attorney to establish a voluntary repayment arrangement.
Seek an execution and levy ordering the sheriff to seize the debtor's real or personal property and sell it at public auction if you are unwilling to let the debtor pay in installments. Your attorney must specify in the execution and levy form the assets or property to be seized; the form is available from the clerk of the court in the county where the property is located. Give the address of real property or a description of personal property to be seized and sold. Be aware of laws exempting certain property from seizure, including the debtor's homestead. All proceeds gained at auction must be used to satisfy the judgment.
Garnish the bank account (or in very limited cases, the wages) of the debtor by notifying the bank of the judgment and your intention to levy against the account, if you are unable to satisfy the judgment through other strategies. Pennsylvania law permits garnishment of wages only in narrow circumstances (among them child support or taxes), so this option may not be available to you. Have your attorney advise you on whether you have grounds to garnish. By seizing the bank account, once wages are deposited they can also be legally seized.
Repossess or place a lien against the debtor's auto, as a last resort. Repossession is a lengthy process and is only permitted when the debtor owns the car free and clear of any liens. Placing a lien against the auto impedes the owner from selling the car unless your judgment has been satisfied. If the debtor's auto is sold while you still have a lien against it, sale proceeds must first be applied to your judgment.