I am the Plaintiff and I have a Final Judgment, however, the Defendant has not yet paid me. I filed a certified copy of the Final Judgment with the County and I filed a certified copy of a Judgment Lien with the Florida Department of State.
Can an Attorney help me collect this debt ? Can an Attorney garnish the Defendant's bank account ?
Debt Collection Attorney
An important question is, "How much is the judgment?" Is it a Small Claims case (under $5000), County Court ($5000-$15,000) or Circuit Court (over $15,000)?
Collections attorneys handle matters one of two ways. Some (like my firm) handle cases on a per hour basis. You owe the attorneys' fees regardless of success, but you keep all the money collected. Some attorneys handle these cases on a contingency basis, where the law firm takes 33% or 40% of whatever money is collected. These firms tend to handle collection cases on a volume basis. In either case, the attorney can seek to recover additional money from the judgment debtor under Fla. Stat. §57.115 for attorneys fees based upon the time incurred trying to collect the judgment. In general, the smaller the judgment, the more a contingency fee is good for you. Also, the harder it is to collect the judgment, the better it is for a contingency fee. However, if the judgment is large or easy to collect, then you may do better paying hourly.
Also, you will get more attention from an hourly attorney. The contingency fee attorney makes money by setting up systems to effeciently collect money with as little effort as possible.
Small Claims Judgments are usually not worth while to have collected by an attorney. There is a procedure in Small Claims where you can ask the Judge to conduct a "Hearing in Aid of Execution" under Fla. Sm. Claims Rule 7.221 -- but this is only available to non-attorneys.
Florida is well known for having a lot of laws protecting debtors. It may be that there is no way to collect your judgment currently. However, it appears that you have done the right things to "perfect" your judgment liens, so the lien on property will last 10 years, and the lien on personal property will last 5 years. These can be renewed under Florida Statutes.
As you are in Polk County, if you call my office, I may be able to refer you to a contingent collection attorney, assuming your judgment is more than $5,000.
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