Yes, but that usually won’t help. Here’s why.
First, someone who only has the minimum coverage required in Ohio – $12,500 per person, $25,000 per accident – usually won’t have enough to be a “target” defendant. Most people with a lot of money are smart enough to buy the insurance coverage necessary to protect them.
And a lot of things that look like property that can be used to pay a judgment, aren’t.
People have started setting up “asset protection trusts.” This is common with high net worth individuals (meaning rich people). They transfer their assets into a trust.
The house? The stocks? The bank account? All owned by the trustee, not the person who hit you who is making $300,000 per year.
Of course, a lot of people don’t do this. And if the trust is set up after the accident, you can always argue that it is a fraud on creditors – which means you could even get the property after it’s been transferred to the trustee. But it will be a long fight. And expensive.
Retirement accounts? You can’t attach them.
Social Security? The same.
Cars? It’s usually too expensive, and too chancy.
You can garnish their job. That’s slow – you can only get so much per paycheck.
And you can’t garnish government employees. (If anyone out there knows different, tell me.)
Another thing – you can’t make the other driver disclose what they are worth. At least not by legal means. (The answer to this question is a little different in Kentucky, where you can ask someone to list their assets and debts in pretrial discovery.)
And this is the killer – nearly all insurance companies will require you to sign a complete release of their insureds as a condition of settlement. So you have a choice between accepting their liability limits, and slogging it out in the courts to see if they have more.
There are some exceptions to this. You can learn about whatever real estate the other driver has in his own name, because that’s on file with the county auditor.
You can hire services that will get you some information about personal wealth – but you sometimes can’t rely on the information they provide. And it costs money to hire the service.
Or you can ask the other driver to sign a statement under oath stating what their property and debts are. In Ohio, they don’t have to give it. And punishing them for any lie is going to be problematic.
I have managed to get money for some clients in a lot of different ways. I’ve gotten judgment, and then had the judgment converted into a lien on their real estate. I’ve garnished bank accounts. I’ve sued a girlfriend who the other driver deeded his house to. I’ve had their driver’s licenses suspended.
Another lawyer – a friend of mine – once managed to get the defendant, a farmer, to sign over his farm to both the lawyer and the client. Sounds good – unless it’s a down market for farms and you’re not a farmer.
Your best fix – if you were smart, and rich enough to get it – is uninsured motorist coverage.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. Insurance – the other driver’s or your own uninsured motorist policy – is by far the best option for collecting for your injuries. If you’ve been injured in an accident, talk with an experienced Cincinnati Injury Attorney about the case. Call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.