When you bail someone out of jail using cash and/or collateral, one of the risks you take is the defendant won't show up to court as required. This will often result in the court forfeiting the bail, which means the state will take the money and you'll never see it again. Don't panic if this happens to you, however, because you can sue the defendant to get your money back. Here's what you need to do.
Make Sure the Bail Was Forfeited
The first thing you need to do is verify the bail was, in fact, actually forfeited. The court will usually send a notice to the person who put up the money or collateral that the bail is in danger of being seized by the state. However, the state may not actually take the cash until a certain amount of time has passed. That's because the court wants to give the defendant time to appear and explain why he or she didn't adhere to the terms of their release. If the court finds the defendant's explanation unsatisfactory, then the bail is usually officially forfeited.
When you receive the notice from the court about the bail forfeiture, contact the clerk to determine if the money has been seized. If it has, then obtain a copy of the relevant paperwork so you can prove to the judge in your personal injury case that you did lose money and the amount.
Determine the Amount Lost
There are two different ways you can bail someone out of jail, which affects the amount of money you can sue for. First, you can pay the bail amount directly to the court. In this case, you could sue for the full amount you put up. For instance, if the defendant's bail was $5,000 and you paid that money to the court, that's the amount you could sue for plus any fees or penalties levied against you.
The second way you can bail someone out of jail is by using a bail bond company. These companies pledge a surety bond (a type of insurance policy) in lieu of cash to the court. In this situation, you only have to pay the bondsman a small nonrefundable fee (usually 10 to 15 percent of the bail) to get the defendant out of jail, and the company would be on the hook for paying the amount due if bail is forfeited.
The amount you could sue for when you use a bail bondsman depends on who signed the contract. If you only provided the defendant with the money and the defendant signed the contract taking responsibility for paying the bondsman back if bail is forfeited then you could only sue for the fee you gave the defendant. However, if you signed the contract or co-signed with the defendant, then you could sue for the fee plus any money the bail company collects from you to mitigate its losses.
The last step is to contact a personal injury attorney who can help you strategize the best way to handle your case so you get what's owed to you. For assistance with your claim or more info, call a local lawyer.