Can my social security checks be garnished for a judgement placed against me for legal fees?

I am in the process of litigation for a personal injury case in which I sustained a serious injury. The opposing party has said that if I lose in the litigation process, they will have a judgement placed against me for legal fees and costs incurred. I am retired for medical reasons, and am receiving Social Security. Can my checks which are directly deposited be garnished in a situation like this?

Asked on July 14, 2012 under Personal Injury, Hawaii


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

A judgement creditor can not touch your social security payments, even if they are direct deposited into a bank account. Federal law protects these benefit payments; they are "exempt" which means that they are not subject to garnishment. 

Note: There are some exceptions. Social Security payments  may be garnished to pay delinquent child support, alimony, federal taxes, etc.

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