When you win a lawsuit, most people think that’s the end of it. You get a check and the other party is left feeling defeated and resentful. But the unfortunate reality is that not everyone who loses in court abides by the judge’s ruling—some people will go to great lengths to avoid paying up. Fortunately, there are ways you can recoup your losses. The first thing you should do is research your opponent to see if they have any assets that would be useful for repaying your judgment. This process is called asset search, and it could be just what you need to recover some or all of your loss from this person.

What is Asset Search?

An asset search is a process designed to reveal information about a person’s assets in an effort to recover a lost judgment. Assets could include real estate, cash, cars, stocks, bonds, or other valuable items that could be used to repay a lost judgment. Once you know what a person’s assets are, you can try to garnish them to collect on your lost judgment. An asset search can be conducted either by hiring a private investigator or by doing it yourself. If you choose to conduct the search yourself, you’ll have to follow the steps below.

How to Find Out if a Defendant Has Assets

The first thing to do when conducting an asset search is to identify what type of assets you’re looking for. There are three types of assets you might want to find: 

  • Tangible assets. Examples of tangible assets include real estate (like a house or land), stocks, bonds, precious metals, and collections of items like books or artwork. 
  • Intangible assets. Examples of intangible assets are things like trademarks, copyrights, patents, and goodwill. 
  • Probable future assets. Probable future assets are the earnings a person expects to make in the future, like salary, bonuses, or commissions.

Once you’ve identified the type of assets you want to find, you can then begin to research the defendant to see if they have anything you could use to satisfy your lost judgment.

What Can Be Recovered Through Asset Search

The exact amount you can recover through asset search will vary based on the type of assets you find. For example, real estate would likely have a high recovery value, while an old book collection would have a much lower value. Some of the things asset search would uncover include: 

  • Bank accounts. If the defendant has accounts in their name at banks or other financial institutions, you can request those funds to pay off your judgment. 
  • Stocks or other securities. Stocks, bonds, and other securities could be sold to pay off your judgment. 
  • Cars. If the defendant owns a car or other vehicle, you can request to have it repossessed and sold to pay off your judgment. 
  • Real estate. If the defendant has real estate like a house or land, you can either have it sold to pay off your judgment or foreclose on the property.


Now that you understand what asset search is and how it works, you can start searching for the assets of the person who owes you money. If you find any assets that could be used to satisfy your judgment, you can either have those assets sold or request that the defendant turn them over to you. While asset search is a useful tool for collecting lost judgments, it’s important to note that some states have specific laws that apply to it. For example, some assets cannot be repossessed or foreclosed on, and you might have to take the defendant to court if they don’t voluntarily pay up.

Wanted: The Truth

Active Intel Investigations is here to help you with every aspect of your investigation, from conducting the investigation to preparing evidence to provide it in court.

Get started with your investigation, browse our video library for investigative resources, or schedule a no-obligation consultation with a licensed private investigator to discuss the specifics of your case.