Can insurance companies garnish my wages in California? 9 Answers as of January 28, 2011

I got a DUI and got in a car accident, total ling my car and the other person's. I am a full time student and also work five days a week. I make enough monthly to just pay rent but the insurance company of the other driver has been threatening to garnish my wages(nearly half of what I make in a month) which would cause me to not have enough to live on. Can they do this, regardless of the offender's financial circumstances?

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Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law
Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law | Diana K. Zilko
If they get a judgment, they can garnish your wages.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/28/2011
Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney
Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney | Janet Lawson
If you have a restitution order, yes they can do this. If you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy they can object to it. My might be able to file a Chapter 14 bankruptcy and make payments over 60 months.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/26/2011
Greifendorff Law Offices, PC
Greifendorff Law Offices, PC | Christine Wilton
YES The insurance company can garnish your wages ONLY if: (1) they settled the claim on your behalf and you owe them money; AND (2) they have filed a lawsuit against you and obtained a court judgment for that debt. If they are simply threatening you, then they may be in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and you could be awarded statutory damages against them in the amount of $1000.00 per offense!
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/25/2011
Ursula G. Barrios Law
Ursula G. Barrios Law | Guillermo Machado
With a valid judgment against you,yes. Damages from DUI are not dischargeable in BK. Thank you,
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/25/2011
The Pedigo Law Corporation
The Pedigo Law Corporation | Brian T. Pedigo, Esq.
Anyone, or any entity, with a judgment against you can use any lawful means of collection, including garnishment of wages. Also, damages caused by DUI are not dischargable in bankruptcy.

Federal restrictions on the maximum amount that may be withheld from an employee's earnings are directly incorporated into the Wage Garnishment Law. Under these restrictions, the maximum part of the debtor employee's aggregate disposable earnings (below) that may be withheld for any work week may not exceed the lesser of: 25% of the employee's disposable earnings for that week; or The amount by which the disposable earnings for the week exceeds 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage ($5.85 per hour through 7/23/08, $6.55 per hour from 7/24/08 through 7/23/09, and $7.25 per hour thereafter).

This means that at least 75% of an employee's disposable earnings are effectively exempt from all nonsupport earnings withholding orders. Moreover, this exemption is automatici.e., no claim of exemption need be made. [CCP 706.050; 15 USC 1673(a); 29 CFR 870.1 et seq]
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/25/2011
    The Law Offices of Robert L. Driessen
    The Law Offices of Robert L. Driessen | Robert L. Driessen
    They can not garnish half your wages. However if they have a valid judgment against you yes they can garnish your wages up to 25% of your income.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/24/2011
    Carballo Law Offices
    Carballo Law Offices | Tony E. Carballo
    The insurance company would have to sue you for the amount of the damages and obtain a judgment against you from a court. Once the judgment is obtained then a garnishment order can be obtained and served on your employer. You will receive papers giving you the opportunity to claim your wages exempt and have a court hearing on that issue. In any case, your employer can only withhold a maximum of 25% of your wages to pay the judgment.

    You can try to convince the judge that nothing should be taken by your employer. Since the damages involved result from an accident in which you were DUI (in addition obviously to having been driving uninsured!) then you might not be able to discharge the debt related to the accident in a bankruptcy case. You might want to consult with a bankruptcy attorney about this but can try to avoid a judgment being issued first by defending the lawsuit if filed and served against you.

    The insurance company can have your drivers license suspended if a judgment is obtained against you because of the accident and then you do not pay the judgment. Usually the DMV would have suspended your license already for the DUI and for driving uninsured. The judge in the criminal case could have ordered you to pay the damages as part of the conditions of probation but maybe didn't do it because the other driver was uninsured. Usually in that situation the restitution issue is reserved but the insurance company could ask the judge to impose it if you are still on probation because of the DUI conviction.

    You got yourself in a big mess for drinking and driving. It sounds like you did not hurt someone (or at least not seriously although the other driver has the right to also sue you for personal injuries) and that it was mostly property damage. You were lucky in the sense that you could have injured or killed someone and then have had to spend years in prison, not to mention having that in your conscience forever Hopefully you learned from your mistake.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/24/2011
    The Law Office of Mark J. Markus
    The Law Office of Mark J. Markus | Mark Markus
    This is not a bankruptcy question, but I will endeavor to answer anyway. They can of course seek to recover money on a valid court judgment from you. Whether they can garnish your wages depends on the laws of your state. In California, they are allowed to garnish up to 25% of your net wages per month, unless you file a claim of exemption with the court. The court can also reduce or eliminate a garnishment order if it would render you unable to meet your ordinary living expenses.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/24/2011
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