There Are Two Main Options to Collect Debts
Video Transcript: What are my options for collecting a debt that I’m owed? My name is Brian L. Jackson. I’m an attorney in Oklahoma with Wirth Law Office. And I want to talk to you guys real quickly about collecting on debts that you’re owed.
Somebody owes you money and you can prove they owe you money and you have an enforceable contract or agreement where they’re supposed to pay that money back to you or they owe you money for some service or something you sold them, then you have the ability to avail yourself of the courts. Now, one of the most simple ways, if it’s not a lot of money, that you can get that money back, is you can file an action in small claims court.
Now, there are some things to be aware of with small claims court. It’s a good thing in some ways, and in some ways, some limitations to small claims court that are lamentable. Small claims court will get you from filing a judgment pretty quickly if you perfect service. And it’s more informal than going to civil court, you’re not dealing with formal motion practice.
Discovery isn’t an issue. Basically, you present your side, they present their side, the court will make a ruling. A lot of small claims dockets, they encourage mediation. And that’s not a bad thing. That saves you money, saves you aggravation. The downside to small claims court is fast.
However, one thing to be aware of is if you end up hiring an attorney to represent you in small claims court and the other party comes in and immediately confesses judgment, you’re going to be limited on what you can collect in the way of attorney’s fees. And the odds are pretty good that the amount you’re going to collect on attorney’s fees is going to be significantly less than what you’re going to owe. So that’s one potential limitation.
Also, if you’re unsure of the precise amount owed on a contract, you can’t do discovery. And also, if the other side has a defense, you may not find out about it until the day you go to court. Because again, you don’t get to do discovery. So there are some limitations to small claims court to be aware of. Also, you can’t do things like summary judgment.
The other option is you file it as a civil action to enforce the contract. In other words, you file it in as a… Usually, it’s a CS case if it’s a lower amount of money. But essentially what that is, is you’re suing them on the debt. And if you go to general civil, it’s more costly, it takes longer. But it isn’t… Debts are… Attorney’s fee cases in Oklahoma, if you’re suing to recover a specific amount, you can recover your attorney’s fees along with it.
In civil court, you do have the ability to do full discovery if you should choose to do so, and you can do motion practice, which includes things like summary judgment. So you may still be able to wrap it up fairly quickly. In either event, there is also the matter of if you get judgment, you still have to collect that judgment. And there’s a whole process for that, which I’m going to talk about in my next video is once you secure judgment, how do you collect it? But that’s how you can collect on bad debts. And it is a process.
If you’re going to go to general civil court, you really want a lawyer. Small claims court is meant to be user-friendly, but understand that it does come with some limitations. And in either case, even if you’re not going to take a lawyer with you to court, you definitely want to consult with an attorney before you proceed on trying to collect a debt. And one place you can find a good debt collecting lawyer in Tulsa is at makelaweasy.com.