Fort Lauderdale Lawyers Skilled in Bankruptcy Matters
Illnesses or injuries can derail you both physically and financially. After a serious medical diagnosis or catastrophic accident, you may need extensive medical care. This in turn can limit your ability to work and pay for that care. Hospital bills can pile up quickly, and you may have difficulty paying them and your other debt. If you are having a hard time keeping up with medical expenses, the bankruptcy attorneys at Anidjar & Levine can help. We represent clients in Hollywood and surrounding areas, and we can offer the guidance you need to see if bankruptcy is right for you.
How to Discharge Medical Bill Debts
Medical bills are a type of debt that you may be able to discharge in bankruptcy. When you file for bankruptcy, you must present all your debt to the court-appointed trustee handling your case. The trustee will determine which creditors are paid first. Certain debts take priority over others.
For example, priority debts like family support obligations and student loans will generally be paid before other debt. Secured creditors, or creditors with debt that is tied to collateral, will be paid next. Your property may be sold to pay the creditor, or you can make arrangements to keep it, depending on the type of bankruptcy you file. Unsecured creditors, or creditors with debts that are not tied to any property, will be paid last. Medical bills and credit card debt generally fall into this category.
Once you present your debt in your bankruptcy case, you cannot add debt later on. In other words, you cannot tack on more debt, including medical debt, after you file your case. You can discharge bills for a medical service rendered before you filed for bankruptcy, but not the bills for services received later.
Liquidation and Reorganization
You can discharge your medical debt in bankruptcy through either a liquidation or debt reorganization. In Chapter 7, your property is sold to pay off your creditors, unless there is a Florida exemption for the property. If the debt is a dischargeable debt, any outstanding balance that remains after the sales proceeds will be discharged at the end of your case. This means that you will have no obligation to pay off any medical debt that remains after it has been discharged in a Chapter 7 proceeding.
Chapter 7 typically takes a few months from start to finish. You must meet certain eligibility criteria to apply for Chapter 7. If you can’t meet these requirements, you can seek bankruptcy protection through Chapter 13.
In Chapter 13, your debt is reorganized. Over the course of three or five years, you will make monthly payments to your creditors based on your disposable income. Priority debts and secured creditors will be paid first, followed by any unsecured creditors. If your unsecured creditors do receive some payment under your plan, it will be less than what you would have paid outside of bankruptcy. Once you successfully meet the terms of your plan, medical bills and any other unsecured debt will be discharged.
Medical debt can pile up at different times, and although bankruptcy can help, there are some limitations. If you filed for Chapter 7 in the past, there must be at least an eight-year gap between your previous Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing and your new Chapter 7 filing. You can file and receive a discharge in Chapter 13 if it has been four years since your previous filing. An attorney with experience handling Florida bankruptcies can offer guidance on how to proceed if you have previously filed for bankruptcy and are now struggling to pay medical bills.
Helping Fort Lauderdale Residents Make a New Financial Start
You can take steps to manage burdensome medical bills and other debt. At Anidjar & Levine, we provide our clients with personalized solutions to determine if bankruptcy is appropriate for them. Our Fort Lauderdale bankruptcy lawyers will review your case and discuss whether bankruptcy may offer relief from medical debt. If you decide bankruptcy is right for you, we can represent you from the initial filing through the conclusion of your case. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call our office at (800) 747-3733, or you can complete our contact form online.