Even though creditors may get judgments (court orders saying debtor owes the money), creditors may not be able to collect. If the debtors don't own a home, are unemployed, don't have money in the bank, and other possessions aren't worth much, they may be "judgmentproof" (the creditor can't force payment). The debtor can't be put in jail for not being able to pay their debts. Even after getting a court judgment, the creditor can only collect by going after their wages and bank accounts (garnishment) or by taking the debtors property (execution). In either case, creditors can't take everything. There are laws setting limits on the amount of the property and wages that creditors can take. Generally, a creditor who has gotten a court judgment against debtors can take some of their property if they own a home with more than $6,500.00 equity (current market value minus amount owed) or have belongings worth more than $1,500.00. If they rent, up to $2,500.00 worth of certain belongings (such as a car) may also be exempt. A judgment creditor can't garnish wages if the debtor makes less than 30 times the minimum hourly wage per week.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.