Personal Injury – Medical Bills Dilemma

After you’re involved in a personal injury accident; whether it be a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, dog bite, or other similar action, you will seek medical attention. Very often, this will result in an ambulance ride to an emergency room, a family or friend driving you to the emergency room, or perhaps, you or someone else driving you to an urgent health clinic. Either way, there will be costs associated with the medical transportation and/or medical treatment.

Immediately after an accident, you may have exchanged insurance information with the at-fault party. Your first instinct may be that the at-fault party’s insurance should have to pay for your medical bills, and you are not wrong; but, there are specific ways to go about recovering against an insurance company. If you take the at-fault party’s insurance information, such as the name of the insurance company and policy number, and provide it to the emergency room triage nurse or front desk staff as the insurance coverage on your treatment, most likely, those expenses will not be paid (at least not at that time, or how you are expecting them to be paid). Similarly, if you file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance and then simply provide the insurance company and claim number to your doctor, hospital, therapist, etc., most likely those expenses will also not get paid (again, at least not at that time, or how you are expecting them to be paid).

A “third-party” case, or a case against another driver, a homeowner, or property owner for a personal injury case is unlike a claim under workers’ compensation. In workers’ compensation, you provide the insurance claim number to a medical provider and the billing and payment go directly from the medical provider to the insurance company for payment. If your workers’ compensation claim is accepted, most likely the expense will be paid, and you will not be contacted or informed about the means and process for payment. However, that is not how personal injury cases are handled for payment of medical expenses. In fact, providing the at-fault party’s insurance company, policy number, and or claim number (unless it is the claim number for the “medical payments” portion of the insurance coverage) can actually cause more problems than benefits in your case. This is especially true if you have a regular health insurance plan, Medicaid, or Medicare. Issues can arise with using the at-fault party’s insurance as your “bill-to” insurance, because if and when payment is not issued, the facility will contact you for payment of the amount in full. This can cause delays in payment, issues with potential collections if the delay goes on for too long, and in worst-case scenarios, a delay of too long may cause the bill to be unable to be submitted to your health insurance company.

In a personal injury case, when you go to the emergency room, a hospital, your doctor’s office, a physical therapy facility, radiology office, or for any medical treatment, use your health insurance card for means of payment, if possible. If not, the best alternative is the use of “medical payments” coverage, either through the at-fault party’s insurance, or through your own insurance. A separate claim may need to be open with the medical payments department of the insurance company, and using a claim number given to you when you reported the accident will often not be sufficient for payment.

The reason simply giving the insurance information to a medical provider will not ensure payment, is because the at-fault party’s insurance company does not engage in a “pay-as-you-go” practice. Instead, how a resolution of these types of cases works is once medical treatment is completed, or once a significant and certain amount of medical expenses has been incurred, a demand for settlement or for a turnover (tender) of the entire amount of the insurance policy is placed upon the insurance company. After a settlement or tender of the insurance policy is completed, a portion of the compensation received is used to pay off medical expenses, co-pays, insurance liens, physician’s liens, and/or other lien holders.

As such, when you are in a car accident, slip and fall accident, or other personal injury accident, you should give your medical providers your primary health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare information. You should still file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance and secure a claim number. However, afterward, give that information to your attorney representing you in the matter. If you do not seek counsel, which we would not recommend, retain that insurance information until after you complete treatment. If there are co-pays, co-insurance, or deductibles with your health care plan, you may need to pay those expenses up front, and then keep records of all payments made fora later potential recovery in your resolution of the claim. As discussed above, you may also be able to use “medical payments” coverage for co-pays, co-insurance, or deductibles, so save copies of payments made and again, give that information to your attorney. Once your medical treatment is completed you and your counsel will fight to try and get all your out-of-pocket expenses, your medical expenses, your lost wages, and your pain and suffering compensated by the at-fault insurance company.

Simply put, while the at-fault person should be held accountable, and their insurance company should pay, there is a specific means by which to attempt to secure payment of compensation. Due to these concerns, we always recommend you seek counsel to represent you in a personal injury matter. If you believe you may have a case, please contact the injury attorneys at Urban & Burt, Ltd. for a free consultation (708) 687-5200.

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Injured at work? Now what?

If you’ve been injured at work, there are going to be a lot questions you have regarding your rights and what to do to protect those rights.

  • Should I “sue” my employer?
  • Do I get paid? How much?
  • My employer/the insurance company says I had a pre-existing condition, what do I do now?

There are going to be a lot more questions than these three, and there are nuances in every claim, but these are some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to be injured while working at your job.

So, should you “sue” your employer?

When you are injured at work, you don’t “sue” your employer like you would see on television. A workers’ compensation claim is not a typical lawsuit and is not you suing your employer in court. When you are injured at work, you have the right to certain benefits if you sustained an accident that arose out of, and in the course of your employment. In that situation, you file an Application for Adjustment of Claim, which places your employer on notice that you wish to evoke your rights under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. However, this does not mean the process is easy and non-adversarial. When you are injured at work, your employer may have defenses to your claim for benefits, and in several instances disputes arise over your benefits. That is why even though you are not technically “suing” your employer, you should seek a lawyer to protect your rights under the Act.

Do you get paid? How much?

In Illinois, if you sustain a compensable work injury, you may be entitled to temporary total disability benefits (amongst other potential benefits). You are entitled to these benefits after you sustain an injury, if you medical doctor opines you cannot return to your pre-injury job for a temporary amount of time.

If you are entitled to these benefits, the amount of money you are entitled to is 66 2/3rds of your average weekly wage. As I indicated above, disputes may arise regarding your rights, and frequently, disputes arise as to the average weekly wage of an employee. Typically, your average weekly wage is calculated by the amount of money you earned in the year proceeding your accident date. Your average weekly wage may include overtime wages, if those wages were earned as a result of mandatory overtime, but may not include wages earned for voluntary overtime. Your benefits may also be determined by whether you have any dependents, the number of weeks you worked, whether you are a part-time or full-time employee, and can also be impacted by State Minimum or Maximum Rates depending on how much you earn in your job.

For example, if you earned $52,000.00 in the year before your accident, and worked 52 weeks, you would have an average weekly wage of $1,000.00, and be entitled to weekly benefits for temporary total disability of $666.67. What happens if you have a pre-existing medical condition? – If you are injured at work, and injure a body part you injured or had treatment to in the past, your workers’ compensation claim may not necessarily be over. However, oftentimes an employer will inform you that your workers’ compensation claim is denied because your injury pre-existed your work accident.

My employer/the insurance company says I had a pre-existing condition, what do I do now?

In Illinois, a pre-existing condition does not act as an outright bar to compensability. If a work accident aggravates, accelerates, or exacerbates your pre-existing condition, you can still have a compensable claim under the Act. Several examples of an “aggravation claim,” include situations where an injury is worsened by a work accident, either because of a structural change to an existing injury/body part, or because a non-symptomatic (often called asymptomatic) condition becomes symptomatic as a result of a work accident. In addition, if an accident accelerates the need for treatment, or the degeneration of a condition, and this can also be a compensable injury under the Act.

If you have had an injury while at work, please contact our skilled workers’ compensation attorneys at Urban & Burt, Ltd. at (708) 687-5200.

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Watch Your Step! Winter Walkway Knowledge

This time of year sidewalks, walkways, roadways, driveways, and pretty much every inch of ground we walk on is covered in snow or ice at different times. While we all do our best to walk carefully, where the proper footwear, and be mindful of our surroundings, we cannot always see black ice, or sometimes, there is simply no safe place to walk. So, what can you do if you slip and fall on ice or snow this winter and are injured as a result, and do you have a legal course of action for compensation as a result of those injuries? There are several factors that play a role in determining whether you “have a case” for a slip and fall on ice or snow. One of the main issues and first questions that must be asked is “where did you fall?” Perhaps more specifically, “who owned the property where you fell?” If you fell on property owned by a city, state, or other municipality, you may be faced with an uphill battle regarding a compensable claim. Under the Illinois Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, the government typically has immunity from lawsuits for injuries that arise out of a condition caused by the weather; including, ice and snow.

If you slipped and fell on a property owned by a business, the law in Illinois is normally governed by the “natural accumulation” rules. Generally, a business does not face responsibility from injuries resulting from a slip and fall accident if the slip and fall was due to the natural accumulation of ice and snow. However, if that business undertakes efforts to remove ice and snow on the property, they must do so without acting with negligence. This essentially means if they opt to remove ice and/or snow from their property, they must not create a dangerous condition by engaging in that removal activity.

Some common instances where a business has created a negligent or dangerous condition by removing ice and snow include improperly located downspouts/drainage systems and removing ice and snow to a dangerous location. In the instance of the downspout, if a business runs their gutter system directly into a parking lot without another drainage system in the parking lot, and after water builds up in the parking lot it re-freezes into large ice sheets, this may be considered an unnatural accumulation. Likewise, if a business plows or shovels snow to one corner of the parking lot, but that corner is located on a steep grade or the highest point of the property causing it to melt and run down into the rest of the parking lot, if that ice refreezes, there again could be an unnatural accumulation.

The bottom line in many of these cases is that they are extremely fact specific matters and frequently require experts who can testify about whether the actions of a business created an unnatural accumulation of ice and snow. For those reasons, it is best to seek an attorney as soon as possible to evaluate whether you have a potentially compensable slip and fall claim. If you believe you may have a claim, please contact the injury attorneys at Urban & Burt, Ltd. for a free consultation (708) 687-5200.

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The Perils of Winter Driving, Especially in the Chicagoland Area

As if the potholes on every highway, side street, and alley were not bad enough! Now that winter is here, everyone has to deal with ice, snow, sleet, freezing rain, and (thundersnow!). What it all adds up to is near impossible driving conditions. Those conditions coupled with Chicago’s notoriously aggressive drivers means we are all at risk for a car accident, or may have already been a victim of a car accident.

Foremost, we should all try our best to prevent these accidents in the winter. Slow down, keep a good distance from the car in front of you, use your turn signals, and brake as slowly and evenly as possible when you approach a stop sign, stop light, or intersection. Most importantly, even though it may sometimes be the most difficult, put the cell phone out of reach and wait until you have reached your destination to use it again.

Realistically, we know that some drivers on the road will not abide by these common self-help strategies. Other times, the weather is just so bad there is nothing anyone can do to avoid an accident. When that happens, you need to ensure you protect yourself, your health, and preserve your rights under the law.

If you are in an accident, and if you are able, check your surroundings for safety. Do not try and get out of your car if you are in the middle lane of the Dan Ryan. If you do exit your car, make sure you check your car and the area for smoke, fire, or gasoline to try and ensure your ongoing safety. Afterwards, check your body for any obvious signs of injury, and if you have passengers, especially children, check on their safety or for injuries. Once you’ve checked for safety and injuries, you need to decide whether you need to call 911.

Similar to how you need to check your surroundings for safety and self for injuries, you should take notice as to whether you need to contact the authorities. If your vehicle is severely damaged, cannot be moved, or if you are injured, you should call 911. If neither car is damaged, and can drive away from the scene, it may be best to exchange insurance information and make a desk report at the nearest police department immediately afterward. Of utmost importance when you are in an accident is your health, the health of the other driver (even if they were at fault; remember, it was an accident), and the health of the passengers in either vehicle. If you or anyone at the scene believes they are hurt, it is best to call 911 to be safe.

If you or someone in your vehicle is hurt, feels pain, or has a visible injury after an accident, and the authorities have arrived on the scene, you will most likely be asked if you want to be taken by ambulance to the nearest emergency room. This can be a tough decision given costs of transportation, insurance concerns, and possibility your car will be towed from the scene. The choice is always yours, but if you feel you were injured particularly if you have a head injury, nausea, chest pains, dizziness, or other signs of a potentially serious condition, it is best to go with the paramedics. If you choose not to go by ambulance, evaluate your health after the adrenaline of the accident has worn off. If you have any pain or symptoms, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Finally, after you’ve ensured both the health and safety of yourself and those involved in an accident, you should seek legal representation as soon as possible to ensure all of your legal rights are protected. There is a high likelihood you will be contacted by the insurance company for the other driver. You should not have to deal with that adjustor alone. Before speaking with the other drivers insurance company it is important you speak with an attorney representing your interests first.

If you have been involved in a car accident, please contact the injury attorneys at Urban & Burt, Ltd. at (708) 687-5200.

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Can Bankruptcy Stop Collection of Child Support Arrearage?

While a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy can’t discharge child support obligations, there is still relief available in the Bankruptcy Court to stop collection proceedings.  Federal laws prohibit the discharge of support obligations in a Bankruptcy.  Chapter 13, which is a part of the Bankruptcy Code, provides a means of restructuring your debt including back child support arrears.

Today, state enforcement agencies and private attorneys collecting past due support obligations use a number of coercive actions including suspension of driver’s license, professional licenses and occupational certificates and even denial of hunting and fishing licenses.

Loss of a driver’s license or professional license can devastate your ability to make a living.  However, those actions can be stopped by filing a Chapter 13.

Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code can help stop collection proceedings by an ex-spouse or state enforcement agency.  Under the Chapter 13 we can file a plan that the Bankruptcy Court will supervise payment of the child support arrearage along with your other debts for a period of three to five years.  During that period you must keep your current child support obligations timely paid.

One case that comes to mind was a struggling young Chiropractor who faced bill collectors for past due bills after going through an extensive divorce proceeding.  While struggling to pay his rent and other bills, he got behind on his child support payments and payroll taxes.  His ex-wife was threatening revocation of his license to practice as a Chiropractor, and the IRS was threatening to levy on his bank account for the past due taxes.  He was facing a loss of his business and ability to earn a living.  By filing a Chapter 13, we were able to stop the IRS levy on his bank account, and we also stopped the revocation of his license threatened by the state child enforcement agency. We were able to successfully propose a plan that allowed him to pay an affordable monthly payment to pay all these obligations in full over a five year period.

Since domestic support obligations are considered a priority, the plan can provide for payment of those obligations before other unsecured creditors, thereby freeing up money for the back support that was being paid to credit cards, pay day loans or other creditors.  Give us a call to see whether we can use Chapter 13 to get your creditors under control, including your back support obligations.

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Strategic default is not enough!

A hot topic in the news is the increasing use of strategic default to avoid Mortgage debts. More and more people who cannot make their mortgage payments are simply walking away from their properties and not paying their mortgages. What the news articles are not always covering is the topic of the liability for the remaining debt after the foreclosure.  Simply allowing the bank to take the property doesn’t stop them from collecting on the note.  There are a few options available to an attorney that do a better job than strategic default, and I’ll discuss them below.

Strategic Default
Strategic Default is the decision to stop paying a mortgage after weighing the consequences.  A common example of strategic default is a property-owner who has lost a tenant, but cannot sell the property in today’s market.  This property-owner may weigh the consequences of negative credit. stop making payments, and allow the property to eventually be foreclosed on.  While this allows the property-owner to stop making payments, they can face serious bills if this is all they do.

First, the Strategic Default does not eliminate the property-owner’s  liability for the remainder of the mortgage due.  To give a hypothetical, imagine a property-owner who owes $100,000 on a property.  When the bank eventually forecloses, the foreclosure judge will order a sale at auction of the property.  Since this is an auction of a foreclosure property, the auction may only bring in 60% of what the property is worth.  If the property was worth $100,000 and the owner owed $100,000, but the auction only brought in $60,000, then there is a $40,000 difference.  When the foreclosure is finished, and the property is deeded to the bank, the owner might be stuck with a $40,000 deficiency bill owed to the bank!  The bank could then take that bill and collect, freezing bank accounts and garnishing paychecks.

Second, the Strategic Default does not eliminate the property-owner’s liability for the safety of the property.  The owner has the responsibility to keep the building up to code.  If a property falls below code, or becomes a threat to public safety, then the city or village the property is in will have the option to sue the owner, imposing fines and fees for failure to make repairs.  This is because the deed for the property will remain in the owner’s name until the foreclosure is concluded and the deed is transferred by order of the foreclosure judge.

In either of these situations, simply walking away from the property by strategic default leaves a owner open to serious bills and fines, and the potential of substantial collections.  A property-owner would do better to consider the options of Bankruptcy or a Consent Decree.

Bankruptcy
As I discussed before, a Bankruptcy can eliminate the liability of a homeowner for all the charges relating to their mortgage.  This would include the deficiency bill I mentioned above.  If an owner decides to pursue a strategic default and then files a Bankruptcy then the Mortgage Company cannot pursue collections other than an in-rem foreclosure to change the name on the deed.  However, because the  deed does not transfer immediately, Bankruptcy is most appropriate when the owner needs to stop making payments but wants to keep living in the property.

Consent Decree
For owners who want to abandon the property immediately, a Consent Decree may be the best option.  When the owner is served with papers (which in Illinois is only the start of the 8 month foreclosure process) the homeowner can negotiate a consent decree, settling the foreclosure case out of court.  Usually done by attorneys, consent decrees shorten the foreclosure process and are controlled by the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure. If these agreements are properly negotiated, then they will quickly eliminate the issue of the deficiency judgment, and transfer the deed faster than the other methods.

So, if you are considering a Strategic Default, consult with the real estate attorneys and bankruptcy attorneys of Urban & Burt before you stop making your payments.  We can review your situation and craft a solution that is best for you. We can advise you about the necessary steps to release real estate you no longer want to pay for.

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Discharge in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Recent questions by a client and a motion in one of our cases has led to some talk about the Discharge in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  The Discharge is the whole point of the Bankruptcy process, and any questions should be referred to an attorney.  Most debts are discharged, but there are some exceptions.  This post is going to briefly explain the discharge, its nature, and its limits.

Upon completion of your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy the court issues an order erasing your debts.  This is the Discharge. In technical terms the Discharge is a permanent injunction that prohibits collection of debts by any of your creditors.  Creditors are ordered not to contact you, to file a lawsuit concerning the debt, to garnish wages, or to otherwise collect on the debt against you.  Actions prohibited include phone calls, reporting to the credit bureaus, and selling the debt to collectors.  The Discharge is intended to allow you to have a new financial start.

However, as I pointed out in an earlier post, some aspects of some debts are not discharged.  If you own a house or a car then the creditor still has the right to take the house or the car if you fall behind.  Specifically, in the case of Illinois mortgages, a mortgage can be discharged, and then if you miss payments then the mortgage company can sue the homeowner for the deed to the property, which is called an in-rem foreclosure.  You might not owe any money, but you still should make the payments if you want to keep your home.

Some debts are not discharged at all.  The Bankruptcy code provides that the following debts are not discharged:

  • Most taxes (and tax loans)
  • Domestic Support Obligations
  • Student Loans
  • 401(k) loans
  • Criminal Fines, tickets, tollway fines, DUI related penalties or judgments

Additionally, the Bankruptcy Court can hold hearings on certain debts, or even certain portions of debts, and determine if they are discharged or not.  Sometimes the court will decide that it would be unjust to eliminate a debt, and then the court will issue an order exempting the debt from the discharge. This can happen with fraudulent debts, or new debts. One of our skilled bankruptcy attorneys can determine ahead of time if that is an issue for you.

Finally, many clients are concerned that they may have missed a debt when they file their case.  Fortunately the courts have provided coverage for debts which are missed because of accident or oversight.  The Bankruptcy Courts insist that when you file you make a good effort to include all of your debts. But if, through no fault of your own, a debt is missed from your list of creditors then that debt is still discharged.  An attorney can send a letter to the creditor, informing them of the bankruptcy and from that time on the Discharge applies to that debt.

Remember, this is only a summary of the Discharge.  The laws are actually very complex, and advice from an attorney is recommended.  If you are a debtor and you want to file Bankruptcy, Urban & Burt can determine if your debts can be discharged. Additionally, if you are a creditor, and you think you have a debt that might be not discharged, we can review the situation and help you preserve your debt.  Our firm is experienced in debtors rights and creditors rights and can help you.

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Why You Should Always Have an Attorney File Your Papers

Legal writing is a highly refined skill, taught extensively at law schools.  If you need something filed in court you should always have an attorney write it and file it for you.  Legal writing is so demanding that even lawyers sometimes make mistakes.  Here are two recent stories about attorneys that made mistakes when writing their documents:

Attorney Reprimanded for Failure to Ellipsis.
One of the most detail oriented skills an attorney is trained in is proper legal citation and quotation.  Whenever an attorney argues a point in writing he should refer to previous decisions by the same court, or by a higher court, to show that what he is asking for complies with the law.  Attorneys also have to refer to the prior actions and statements of the court in the same case.  The problem is mastering how to use those citations and quotes and to properly show their context, original location, and intent. A Massachusetts lawyer recently omitted ellipses from his quotes and has been reprimanded for his failure.  The lawyer made edits to a quote, omitting some of the text from the original.  He should have used an ellipsis, that sometimes seen dot-dot-dot (…) that indicates that something is missing.  This lawyer failed to do so and is now being reprimanded in writing by his disciplinary committee.

Attorney’s Brief Criticized for “Rambling”
Another skill attorneys are taught is brevity.  Legal writing should be short, effective, and to the point.  Courts often are overwhelmed with the case load and paperwork they are given.  In order to keep the load flowing judges often set page lengths, word lengths, margin widths, and allowed font types. Most attorneys are aware of these limitations or know where they can find the rules each individual judge will want them to follow.  In the 7th Appellate Circuit (the federal appeals court including Chicago) an attorney recently filed an excessively long, “rambling” brief.  The rule required briefs to be less than 14,000 words, but the attorney filed a brief over the limit.  The Appellate Court issued a scathing opinion, pointing out that the brief was not only too long, but that it was without merit.  This written criticism by some of the country’s most respected judges will become a part of the permanent public record.  The opinion of the judges specifically cautions that future violations of the limits may result in immediate dismissal.

Pro-se Document 10 Times too Long. (A personal anecdote.)
One of the first legal jobs I had while in law school was to edit documents written by pro-se litigants.  I was once presented with a 100 page document that was repetitive, rambling, and poorly formatted.  After a few hours I had it down to 11 pages.  When I presented it to the partner managing the case he managed to shave off another couple of pages.  After our revisions the document was powerful, concise, and something a judge would be able to read.  If we had not made them, the case could have been lost just for bad writing.

So, if you have any kind of legal papers you want filed or reviewed, please Call Urban & Burt.  Our senior attorneys have decades of experience in legal writing.  We can make certain that whatever you file will be short, to the point, and effective.

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How Bankruptcy works with Foreclosure

A client I will call Paul called in today, and he was confused by a part of his bankruptcy that confuses a lot of our clients. Paul filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy with the intent to surrender a piece of real estate he no longer wanted. Paul is most of the way through his Chapter 7 and a recent letter from his bank had him confused. I reassured Paul that the Bank wasn’t trying to collect any more money and explained his situation.

Like most of us, when Paul bought his home he signed two different pieces of paper: a NOTE and a MORTGAGE. The note was Paul’s promise to pay, and the mortgage was Paul’s promise to give the bank the deed. When Paul decided he didn’t want to keep his home in his bankruptcy he was attempting to discharge his note. The mortgage remains, and Paul will still have to give the bank the deed.

When Paul’s Bankruptcy concludes, and he is granted his discharge, the bank will look at Paul’s payment history and decide when it is appropriate to act on the mortgage. Eventually the bank will file a special kind of foreclosure, an “in rem” or property only foreclosure, to take the deed to the house. This is required under Illinois law, and takes place in the same court as regular foreclosure and takes the same amount of time. Paul will have at least 8 months after being served to move out of the home. During this time the bank may add charges to the balance of the mortgage, but Paul will never be liable to pay on those charges.

In the end Paul felt better. He will have to wait some time for the process to complete, but he can walk away from the house any time he wants, and he has more than ample time to find a new place to live. Confusing letters from the bank are not going to end up with him being charged any money.

If you have any question about your financial situation, or need advice about foreclosure and bankrupcty, consult with my firm. Find us at www.urbanburt.com.

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A man who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client

In Judge Cox’s Bankruptcy court room this morning I saw a bankruptcy case dismissed for missing one of the hurdles bankruptcy presents to the inexperienced. Judge Cox rightly informed the debtor his only option was to file again. No refund will be issued and he is out $299 in lost filing fees.

The mistake this debtor made is pretty common. Looking to save attorney’s fees this gentleman filed a bankruptcy ‘pro-se’ or without an attorney. His petition was filed and the case was opened. Unfortunately, he had failed to take an accredited credit counseling class.

§ 521(b)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code provides this absolute requirement for people filing bankruptcy: file a certificate from an approved non-profit credit counseling agency. The certificate must also be dated before your date of filing. If you take the class after you file your case will still be dismissed. Finally, you have to file the certificate of credit counseling within the 14 days after you open your case.

This morning Judge Cox asked the gentleman if he had an attorney, which he did not. Then she asked him if he had taken credit counseling before he filed. Judge Cox was plainly unhappy to hear that he had not, and that she had to dismiss the case. Now if this man wants Bankruptcy protection he will have to refile, costing him another $299 for his Chapter 7.

This is a mistake no good attorney will make, but it is frequently made by the pro-se filer. Considering the cost of a filing fee ($299) it is not a painless mistake either. If you are considering filing a bankruptcy, please consider meeting with one of my firm’s skilled attorneys first. Find us at www.urbanburt.com.

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