By: Wayne Patton, FHLF co-counsel
In this three part series, I’m going to analyze ways in which you can insulate your assets from the legal system. Part I (this article) will discuss why it’s important to be “judgment proof.” Part II will delve into different types of assets that need protecting. Part III will bring everything together in terms of establishing a plan.
Protection from Lawsuits
What is the best way to discourage a plaintifs’ attorney who works on contingency fees? The most effective method is to make sure you’re overlooked by them. Not having any assets is one way to make sure that happens. In the legal community, people without any assets are called “judgment proof.” Being judgment proof is an excellent way to protect assets from lawsuits. Attorneys want to make the easy money. They don’t want to waste time pursuing defendants that will be unable to pay.
Remove the Contingency Fee, Remove the Incentive to Sue
Again, most plaintiffs’ attorneys work on contingency fees. You’ve seen those guys on T.V.: “We don’t get paid unless you collect!”
Personal injury and malpractice attorneys do not receive upfront retainers from clients. They don’t bill by the hour either. The only way these lawyers get paid is by winning or settling cases and collecting. If a plaintiff’s attorney loses a case, they get no compensation and are often “out” the expenses of litigation (e.g. court costs). The same thing happens if they win but can’t collect.
It’s obvious that personal injury and malpractice claims attorneys must evaluate several factors when deciding whether or not to take on a new case. First, they must determine the likelihood of establishing liability (i.e. winning the case). Second, they have to determine if the defendant will be able to pay.
The defendant’s ability to pay is a critical factor. If a potential defendant is judgment proof, then they are not considered an easy target. As the saying goes, “If you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.” Pursuing a course of litigation against a judgment proof defendant would be a waste time and money for most personal injury and malpractice attorneys. Even if liability can be established, there is no way to collect. If there is no way to collect, there is no way to get paid. It’s that simple.
It’s All About the Money
Plaintiff’s attorneys are in the game to make money. It would be an absolute anomaly to see a lawsuit filed against a business or individual that does not have assets and the ability to pay.
The takeaway is that being judgment proof provides an excellent form of lawsuit protection for your assets. It’s an easy way to deter litigation. How this applies to a person with significant assets will be discussed in the third part of this series.
If you’d like to learn more about asset protection planning
, please call us today. Mention this article or that you found us through the Florida Healthcare Law Firm, and we’ll waive our customary $279 analysis fee.