Winning a Lawsuit: What Does It Mean to ‘Perfect My Rights’?

If you have been researching the possibility of filing a lawsuit against another party, perhaps you have run across the phrase ‘perfecting your rights’. Do you know what that means? And if so, do you know how to go about doing it? Perfecting one’s rights after a successful lawsuit is critical to seeing things through to their full conclusion.

Like virtually any other industry, the legal industry has its own jargon outsiders are not expected to know. The phrase ‘perfect your rights’ is part of that jargon. In simple terms, perfecting your rights refers to taking the legal steps necessary to enforce the judgment in question. In most cases, it involves taking steps toward collecting a monetary award.

Civil Court Is Not Criminal Court

Understanding the principle of perfecting one’s rights begins with acknowledging the differences between civil and criminal court. First and foremost, they aren’t the same thing. Civil courts deal with civil disputes where criminal courts deal with criminal offenses.

Under the law, failing to pay one’s debts is considered a civil matter. Meanwhile, breaking into someone’s home and stealing their property is a criminal matter. You have two different offenses dealt with in two different ways.

The reason a winning party needs to perfect his rights in a civil case, but not in a criminal case, has to do with how decisions are enforced. In criminal court, a guilty verdict is enforced by a judge who passes sentence. A criminal might get several years in prison for breaking the law. But in civil cases, courts do not sentence. They award judgments. It is up to the winning parties to enforce those judgments.

Different Kinds of Judgments

Civil judgments are not always monetary. Oftentimes they are, but there are cases in which the only money exchanging hands pertains to the winning party’s legal fees. Here are some different types of judgments that are not monetary:

  • Property – A property judgment formally establishes ownership of a disputed piece of property. Two parties involved in a divorce and fighting over a piece of shared property is a classic example.
  • Eviction – Landlords looking to evict tenants late on their rent would seek an eviction judgment. Said judgment would compel the local sheriff to forcibly evict the tenant in question.
  • Regulatory – A regulatory judgment is issued against a company or other entity found to be in violation of local, state, or federal regulations. The order requires the losing party to bring itself into regulatory compliance.

A classic example of a monetary judgment would be a financial award offered in a personal injury case. Think of someone who slips and falls at the grocery store. If the court awards the customer several thousand dollars to cover medical costs and lost income, the resulting award would be considered a monetary judgment.

Collecting the Money

In terms of perfecting your rights, Salt Lake City’s Judgment Collectors explains that collecting monetary judgments is not always easy. A judgment creditor might perfect his rights by immediately filing liens against the debtor’s property. Filing a lien demonstrates the creditor’s financial interest in the property against which a lien is placed.

Obtaining a writ of garnishment would be another means of perfecting one’s rights. The point is that perfecting one’s rights is all about protecting the ability to enforce the judgment.

If you are thinking of filing a lawsuit against another party, educate yourself on what it will take to perfect your rights in the event you win. Do not go in unprepared or you could find yourself facing a big problem on the other side.…