As used in the context of litigation, an asset check is a private investigation of an individual's ability to pay damages. An asset check is necessary only in cases where a defendant does not have sufficient insurance limits for the covered loss, or where the incident that caused the loss is not covered.
For example, a dog owner who lives in her own condominium might be covered for canine-inflicted injuries but only up to $50,000.00. If the victim was bitten on the face, incurs $50,000.00 in medical treatment costs and remains scarred for life, the value of the claim (assuming full liability on the part of the dog owner) might be $500,000.00, which means that the dog owner herself would have to pay $450,000.00 to the victim. In that case, the attorney for the victim would engage an investigator to conduct a thorough asset check of the defendant to determine how much of the $450,000.00 she can pay, and the length of time she probably would need to pay it.
An asset check seeks anything of significant value: real property, personal property, business investments, business licenses, employment information, family trusts, lawsuits and adversaries. There is almost as much focus on indebtednesses: judgments that the subject has to pay, child support, dependent support, loans, mortgages and the like.
The investigator uses a variety of techniques: public records, interviews and surveillance. This information tells the investigator how much disposible income the subject her. Ultimately, a decision is reached as to whether the subject is likely to declare bankruptcy, how much the subject can pay, and how long it will take to pay it.