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What kind of person files for bankruptcy? Defeating the Stereotypes

One of the difficult aspects of being a bankruptcy attorney in Waco, Texas is defeating the stereotypes of what kind of person files for bankruptcy. When I am out in the community and I am introduced as a bankruptcy attorney, people back away and say, "Well, I hope I never need you." The problem is that most people have an unrealistic view of the person who files for bankruptcy. They believe that people who file for bankruptcy are deadbeats who purposefully or irresponsibly ran up credit cards with lavish vacations to exotic lands, expensive jewelry, and big screen TVs in all of their rooms. Then they file bankruptcy without a second thought and keep all the awesome stuff they purchased to the detriment of the rest of us. How selfish and irresponsible! The reality is much, much different. My typical client is someone who is overwhelmed and can't pay their bills due to something out of their control. They are struggling and bankruptcy is the last thing they want to do. The majority of my clients fall into one of three categories:

  1. Someone, with or without health insurance, who is faced with large medical bills due to an accident or illness. In 2009, CNN reported that medical bills cause more than 60% of bankruptcies across the nation. I have clients who have been involved in car accidents which have resulted in surgery after surgery, cancer survivors, individuals with children who were born with birth defects, and individuals who have been forced into early retirement due to their health. "Unless you're a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, you're one illness away from financial ruin in this country," reports Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., of Harvard Medical School. "In an illness is long enough and expensive enough, private insurance offers very little protection against medical bankruptcy...."
  2. Someone who has a loss of income for any number of reasons including job loss, illness, divorce, death of a spouse, self-employment in a failing economy. Even though the income has deceased, the cost of living remains the same or continues to go up. To survive, these individuals turn to credit cards to make ends meet all the while hoping that next month will be better. Next month they will find a job. Next month the child support will come in. Next month people will start building houses again. But things don't get better or, by the time they do, the credit cards are maxed out or have such large balances that the person can never hope to pay it all back.
  3. Someone who is struggling to make their mortgage payments do to decreased income. They have attempted to modify their home loan. They truly believed the modification was coming if they just sent the mortgage company one more set of documents. They may have been told not to make the mortgage payment while attempting to modify the home loan. They may have paid a company who turned out to be a foreclosure scam to help save their home. Now they are facing foreclosure and are so far behind on the home loan, they may lose the home.

70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. The majority of us want to pay our bills, but sometimes bad things happen to good people, and even the most frugal of us needs help. That is where I can help. You don't have to suffer alone. If you are drowning in debt, call 254-633-2876 today for a free, no-obligation consultation or email me at [email protected]. Let my family help yours! Photo Credit: Rights-free portrait of Abraham Lincoln from the Library of Congress

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