When another individual wrongs you, you can file a lawsuit against him to collect civil damages. If the person that wronged you in some way does not have any assets or income, suing him is still possible. Due to his lack of assets, however, it will most likely not be worth your time.
The ability to sue someone does not depend on the assets or income that they have. Anyone can potentially have a lawsuit filed against him. In many cases, you may not necessarily know all of the assets that a person has until you file a lawsuit. People with no assets or income have lawsuits filed against them and receive judgments. The problem comes when it is time to collect the judgment from the individual.
Collecting the Judgment
After filing a lawsuit against an individual and receiving a favorable judgment by the court, the plaintiff can enforce the judgment with the backing of the court. If the individual does not have any assets, you will not be able to seize any for the payment of the judgment. If the individual does not have any income, you may be able to collect on future earnings. If the debtor only collects Social Security or disability, however, the federal government protects these benefits against collections.
Small Claims Court
In some cases, it may be in your best interest to file a suit in small claims court. Every state has a small claims court that handles cases based on small financial matters. Typically, the matter must involve a debt of less than $5,000 to be heard in small claims court. If the person you are suing has very limited resources, it may make sense to use small claims court because the legal expenses will be much lower than if you had to file a lawsuit. You can represent yourself and argue your own case.
If the individual does not have any assets, it still can sometimes work in your favor to file a lawsuit. If the court makes a judgment in your favor, you can use it to garnish the individual's wages. Even if he does not have income at the moment, he may eventually decide to get a job. You could then use the judgment to get a wage garnishment. This will pay you for the judgment with money directly out of his paycheck each time he receives a paycheck. Depending on state law, the amount you can garnish varies. Typically you'll have access to approximately 25 percent of the debtor's disposable income -- the amount left after mandatory deductions like Social Security and Medicare. However, the garnishment cannot leave the debtor destitute and without a means to pay his necessary bills like rent, utilities and food. If the debtor has a limited income, it may take an extended period of time to retrieve the money owed.
Luke Arthur has been writing professionally since 2004 on a number of different subjects. In addition to writing informative articles, he published a book, "Modern Day Parables," in 2008. Arthur holds a Bachelor of Science in business from Missouri State University.