The People Who File For Bankruptcy: What Kind of People Get Rid of Their Debts?

22 Jan The People Who File For Bankruptcy: What Kind of People Get Rid of Their Debts?

mirrorMy office focuses on consumer bankruptcy. As an attorney in a small rural community, I am asked often about my clients and how folks can just walk away from debts. I am asked how I can sleep at night, knowing I have assisted folks with getting rid of creditors. My answer is: “I sleep quite well, thank you!” and “the kinds of people you work for, work with, church with, marry, all kinds of people file bankruptcy.”

There are many articles about celebrities who have filed for bankruptcy (see one here) and many articles on this site about famous folks who have filed for bankruptcy protection. But, for every celebrity, there are many other folks who live quiet lives of desperation, who worry about what will happen when the bankruptcy petition is filed, whether they should file a Chapter 13 or a chapter 7, or the bigger question: how theywill pay for the process. Who are they?

Last week, I met with a couple who cleared six figures — but their child had been life-flighted to a major urban area twice for specialized care at a children’s hospital. Their insurance wouldn’t cover a $80,000 life-flight bill. And they had no hope of paying for it, as one parent had to now stay home to care for the child, and there would be continued weekly trips back to the urban center for treatment. Also last week, I met with a 80 year old woman whose social security was being administratively garnished by a government agency and who was left with approximately $890 to pay her rent, food, utilities, and medications not covered by Medicare. Not surprisingly, she lost her apartment. Did the garnishing government agency care? Nope.

I see folks from all walks of life — the line worker to the president of the company to the manager. None of them are happy to see me or want to be in my office. The conservative line of thinking says that these folks are deadbeats. But those same conservatives will come with their mothers and fathers to my office and tell me that this is a different kind of case — that this is exceptional. Unfortunately it usually isn’t exceptional as this country struggles through the economic difficulties.

What kind of people file for bankruptcy? Just look in the mirror. It’s you.


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I'm a consumer protection lawyer in Oregon, working with people in Klamath; Lake; Jackson; Josephine; Curry; and Deschutes County. I speak regularly on bankruptcy and consumer protection issues nationwide.
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