It depends, a debtor may or may not have the ability to pay when they are faced with potential legal action. A lawyer must make a judgment call on whether this debtor can pay immediately, can pay on time, or will go bankrupt if strong demand and very strong actions are taken from the outset.
Post-Judgment, the same analysis must be made. However, post-judgment, we can place a lien on the debtor’s real or personal property and garnishing their wages. Ask yourself, would you want to have your property seized or your wages garnished when you had sufficient liquidity to satisfy a debt?
From Initial Demand Oftentimes, with a demand letter, draft complaint and documents evidencing the debt, the debtor will pay within a matter of weeks. For those who don’t, a lawsuit is the next step.
Magistrate Courts: From filing to judgment will take 2.5 to 6 months.
Oftentimes, the debtor will agree to pay on the day of trial, subject to a consent judgment obtained there. Just as often, the debtor does not even answer the complaint and a default judgment is obtained within 60 days of filing the litigation. Magistrate courts have fewer procedural requirements than the state or superior courts, thus, cases are resolved more quickly. The Magistrate Court has jurisdiction over the trial of civil claims including garnishment and attachment in which exclusive jurisdiction is not vested in the superior court and the amount demanded or the value of the property claimed does not exceed $15,000.00, provided that no prejudgment attachment may be granted. O.C.G.A. § 15-10-2 (5).
The downside of Magistrate Courts in Georgia, is that a savy debtor can often delay things longer than if just filed in State or Superior Court.
State Courts: From Filing to Judgment between 60 days and 1.5 years. In collection cases, often under a year.
State Courts are often excellent places to file such lawsuits. Defendants on promissory notes or accounts often fail to answer and a default judgment is entered on a letter to the judge. The advantage of State courts over Magistrate is in the post-judgment collection discovery permitted. In State court, subpoenas, depositions and general discovery techniques may be used. In magistrate court judgments, the Creditor is severely limited in post-judgment collection discovery. State courts are also advantageous over superior courts because their case loads often move faster, meaning a faster resolution of the lawsuit.
Superior Courts: From Filing to Judgment between 60 days and 1.5 years. In collection cases, often under a year.
Even though State Courts offer some advantages over superior courts, Superior Courts are still excellent places to file such lawsuits. Even though it may take longer to schedule a hearing, often times, no hearing is necessary, so the advantage of the State Court case load speed becomes irrelevant. Superior Courts, also can enforce equitable remedies and hear equitable claims, which State Courts cannot. In instances where equitable claims (such as no contract and the claim is for unjust enrichment), superior Court will be the only place to go.
A Debtor Just Sent Me a Check Marked "Payment in Full" Which Does Not Satisfy the Debt, Can I Cash it?
Don’t cash it without consulting a lawyer. In Georgia, it may or may not be considered and "Accord and Satisfaction" in other words, a settlement in full of the amount owed to you.
According to O.C.G.A. § 13-4-103:
acceptance by a creditor a check, draft, or money marked "payment in full" or with language of equivalent condition, in an amount less than the total indebtedness, shall not constitute an accord and satisfaction unless: a bona fide dispute or controversy exists as to the amount due; or such payment is made pursuant to an independent agreement between the creditor and debtor that such payment shall satisfy the debt.