What Is an Unsatisfied Judgment Fund?

An unsatisfied judgment fund is the amount of money set aside by certain states to cover uncompensated expenses related to bodily injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents where the responsible driver is unable to pay for the damages. The unsatisfied judgment fund is used to help the injured and not-at-fault driver pay for medical bills related to the accident.

In order to be eligible to receive assistance from the fund, the injured party must be able to prove that he or she was not at fault and that they are unable to collect money from the responsible party. Usually, in order to get an unsatisfied judgment against another driver, the injured party must file supporting paperwork with the DMV. The requirements for this paperwork vary from state to state.

Key Takeaways

  • An unsatisfied judgment fund is the amount of money set aside by certain states to cover uncompensated expenses related to bodily injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents where the responsible driver is unable to pay for the damages.
  • The unsatisfied judgment fund is intended to protect drivers from financial losses resulting from motor vehicle accidents for which they are not responsible.
  • In most states that have unsatisfied judgment funds, a motorist can discharge the debt either by paying it off in full or by filing bankruptcy.


Unsatisfied Judgment Funds Explained

The unsatisfied judgment fund is intended to protect drivers from financial losses resulting from motor vehicle accidents for which they are not responsible. The responsible party may be unable to pay because he or she is insolvent, underinsured or uninsured. Often, these state funds are financed by a small addition to the state's automobile registration fee. The fund pays unsatisfied judgments up to certain, fixed limits.

There can be steep penalties for a driver who is determined to be at fault in an accident and who is unable to pay for damages. For example, the driver might lose their driver's license until they are able to cover the financial damages. Once the responsible driver pays back the money into the unsatisfied judgment fund, he or she may be eligible for a driver's license again.

Penalties for Unsatisfied Judgments

The penalties for having an unsatisfied judgment can vary from state to state, but they usually include losing your license and your ability to register a vehicle until the debt is paid. In most states that have unsatisfied judgment funds, a motorist can discharge the debt either by paying it off in full or by filing bankruptcy.

In some states, a motorist can discharge the debt entirely via bankruptcy, while in others, they are still required to pay the debt, but can be given a payment plan. Once the motorist can show the DMV that their debt has been paid or discharged, or that they are making payments according to a court-approved payment plan, he or she can usually have his or her driving and vehicle registration privileges reinstated.

If the motorist at fault pays back the unsatisfied judgment amount, the injured motorist must file paperwork with the court to show that he or she has received the money he or she was owed. Once this paperwork is filed, the motorist at fault can take it to the DMV as proof that his or her debt is paid, and use it to have his or her license reinstated.

The costs of an unsatisfied judgment can be steep and can cause an uninsured or underinsured motorist to lose his or her driving privileges for years if he or she cannot pay back the debt or declare bankruptcy. This is why motorists are required, in most states, to carry collision insurance, and why it’s a good idea to make sure you have enough coverage.