Winning a lawsuit is often just the beginning of the battle to get paid. Evasive losing parties can try to claim insolvency or even go into hiding, making it difficult for lawyers launch an asset investigation.
Difficult, but not impossible.
There are some strategies that can help attorneys and asset investigators uncover an opposing party's hidden bounty.
Here are five suggestions:
- Keep communicating with your client, and leave no stone unturned. Begin by having your client brief you and your investigator on the opposing party's likely assets, and where they might be found. This is especially effective when spouses are suing each other, one attorney-investigator writes for Inside Counsel. Continue to follow-up with your client as the asset investigation proceeds to make sure you're on the right track.
- Think like the other party. Where would you try to hide your assets, if you were in the other party's shoes? Internet articles suggest some common tactics, such as putting assets in another person's name or setting up trusts. Some methods may effectively shield assets from seizure, but others may not.
- Think outside the box, and outside city limits. Your search for assets should be broad, figuratively and geographically. An opposing party may have assets in other cities, states, or even overseas, Inside Counsel advises. Keep an open mind, and try not to "predict too precisely what you may find," the magazine says.
- Anticipate typos and nicknames. Data-entry clerks often transpose letters or make other typos. Opposing parties may have assets under different maiden names, nicknames, business names, or aliases.
- Beware of legal pitfalls. Data like cell phone records and medical records may be easy to obtain, but they may also be illegal, Inside Counsel warns. Make sure your asset investigator has the proper legal clearances, so your search for assets doesn't get you disciplined.
- Considerations in Hiring an Asset Investigator (FindLaw)
- Asset Investigations - Legal Investigators (FindLaw's Legal Services Market Center)
- Solo Attorneys Get Paid for Less Than 40% of Their Time (FindLaw's Strategist)
- Hiding Money Offshore? IRS Amnesty Program Starts (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)