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What Is a Civil Judgment?

A civil judgement against someone may include garnishment of that person's paychecks.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2014
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A civil judgment is a verdict in a civil court case. In most cases, a civil judgment determines which party is responsible for the monetary damages claimed by the case. Two of the most common types of civil judgments are remunerative and punitive damages. A person deemed liable by a civil judgment may be subject to wage garnishment, property liens, and credit score damage if he or she does not pay the specified amount of damages.

Civil court cases handle legal issues that are not criminal in nature. Personal injury claims, landlord tenant disputes, and product liability issues are all examples of cases that might result in monetary damages, but do not involve an actual crime. A plaintiff may apply for a civil judgment to determine financial responsibility for a civil issue, such as which party is responsible for paying auto repair and medical bills following a serious car accident.

In most cases, the major issue handled by a civil judgment is responsibility for monetary damages. Judges in civil cases are not usually allowed to send a person to jail, issue restraining orders, or enact other penalties reserved for the prosecution of criminal law. Civil judgments do not always result in only one party being held responsible for damages; in some cases, a judge may find that each participant is partially responsible, and divide the damages accordingly.

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Remunerative and punitive damages may be awarded as a result of a civil judgment. Remunerative damages are meant as compensation for actual, measurable damages caused by the actions or behavior of the party deemed responsible. Medical costs, unpaid or overpaid rent, or property repair bills are all forms of remunerative damages. Punitive damages may be extra fines awarded to the winning party if the judge feels that the responsible party acted maliciously and willfully. As the name suggests, punitive damages are not to make up for any specific damage incurred, but to punish the responsible party for his or her inappropriate behavior and act as a deterrent against future behavior.

While a civil judgment can award damages, civil courts do not usually oversee the actual collection and payment of damages. In most cases, the winning party will employ a lawyer to attempt to collect the awarded amount from the losing party. If the responsible party cannot or will not pay the damages awarded by a civil judgment, the court may allow wage garnishment or liens against the debtor's property. In some cases, an unpaid civil judgment may also be reported to credit bureaus, and can adversely affect loan and mortgage rates and eligibility.

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