After You File Bankruptcy, What Happens If A Creditor Contacts You?

by Susanne Robicsek, North Carolina Bankruptcy Attorney

December 13, 2010

Once a bankruptcy is filed, all creditors are supposed to stop trying to collect debts that are dealt with or discharged in your case.

But what happens if a creditor contacts someone after bankruptcy?

As soon as a case is filed, there is an automatic stay that protects you from your creditors, and they can’t continue to try to collect their debts from you unless they follow the laws carefully.

If a case is still open and they try, then the creditor is violating the automatic stay in the active case, and may be sanctioned for doing so, in other words you can get paid for being harassed.

If the case was closed and the debt discharged, then they are violating the discharge injuntion and may be santioned for that as well.

Most of the violations I see in my clients’ cases are minor infractions such as a single bill or collection call from a creditor.

For my clients who receive a simple bill after their case is filed, I may first send a letter asking the creditor to stop all further collection attempts. I find a letter often halts all actions by the creditor and that is the ultimate goal for my clients.  Furthermore, my  court frowns upon lawsuits filed in response to a single bill.

However if creditor act in a more agressive, overt, repetitive or reckless manner, they may be met with a lawsuit instead.

If a debtor has a more serious violation or the creditor has been warned already, a more aggressive approach may be warranted.  Lawsuits, sanctions and motions are usually filed against creditors in order to stop further collection efforts and/or to punish them so they stop that particular behavior in the future.

Sometimes creditors violate the stay a second time, even after a judge sanctioned them for an earlier violation.   It is important that debtors and their attorneys keep careful track of what the creditors say and do, and also whether or not they knew that the client was in bankruptcy.

Should further action be necessary, attorneys can discuss a variety of options for any attorney fees the client may face, depending on the particular circumstances of the case.  Sometimes the attorney will require that the client agree to pay for the suit but if possible we like to try to collect the attorney fees from the creditor, which is certainly made easier by having a strong case against them.

If you filed for bankruptcy and a creditor is contacting you about payment then you should speak to your attorney to evaluate whether or not you have a case to bring against the creditor, but most importantly how to make the creditor stop any future collection efforts.

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Concentrating in Consumer Bankruptcy Law since 1988; Wake Forest Law School JD 1987 Law Office of Susanne M. Robicsek since 1993, Law Clerk to Judge Rufus Reynolds, US Bankruptcy Judge for Middle District of NC; Burns Price & Arneke, PA, David Badger and Associates, PA.

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Last modified: February 22, 2013