Discharging medical bills in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy: Don and Jessica’s story

Unpaid medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy. Nearly two million people a year people file for bankruptcy because there is no way they will ever be able to pay their large medical debts. Next to medical bills, credit card debt and unpaid mortgages are the other leading factors causing people to seek bankruptcy protection and often a discharge of those large and growing balances. Accidents and chronic illness can come from nowhere and wipe people out financially, despite years of savings and financial planning.

Jessica always did everything right and was blind sighted by a fall during a routine medical visit.

Two years ago, Jessica (she’s a hypothetical person) went to the doctor for a routine mammogram. She was 43 years old and in perfect health until the technician operating the medical equipment made a mistake and possibly causing Jessica to stumble and fall backward, hitting her head on a table as she fell.

A week before her routine visit to the doctor, Jessica was promoted at her marketing firm and was looking forward to going out to celebrate with some friends. She never left the hospital.

Jessica’s husband Don arrived to find his wife of 18 years in the ICU, unconscious. Fearing the worst, Don was thrilled to see Jessica wake up and say his name. Confused, she asked him why she was in the hospital. He explained that she had fallen during the mammogram. She did not remember. He thought nothing of it assumed trauma blocked the memory.

Jessica suffered short term memory loss and was unable to do her job. She tried going to work but kept making mistakes and her firm had to let her go due to her injuries. Unable to earn an income, Jessica’s ongoing therapy for her head injury sent her in and out of doctors offices and hospitals because things started getting worse and other symptoms suggested there was more going on than the doctors thought.

Don and Jessica saved for retirement and her accident wiped them out.

When Jessica’s insurance was maxed out and she had trouble getting new insurance at the time, and Don didn’t have any insurance through his carpet installation job. She and Don turned to their savings. It went quickly. Don picked up extra labor work and barely had time to see his sick wife. Needing to pay up front for certain procedures and medications, other bills were not getting paid. Don’s phone was constantly ringing with collectors on the other end, or the hospital, every 10th phone call. Don no longer recognized his life.

Jessica started getting better and although she couldn’t go back to work due to permanent memory loss problems, her other motor skill and respiratory symptoms were improved. Trying to move forward with their new life together was difficult, especially when Don could barely afford to take them out for dinner.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is Don and Jessica’s best option.

Jessica learned that she qualified for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. She also learned that even though she would not be liable for the medical bills after discharge, the collectors would go after Don for those payments. Jessica and Don are going to file a joint husband and wife bankruptcy petition so the massive medical bills go away for good, for both of them. Worried about the incredible payments, Don didn’t even realize that filing for bankruptcy will also stop the phone from ringing off the hook. The automatic stay provision will prevent anyone from contacting him or taking action to collect certain debts, such as the medical bills for anything incurred prior to the filing date of the bankruptcy.

Jessica also worked it out with the hospital so that she could continue treating with her regular physician and found a private program to help with her medication. Don and Jessica are hopeful that they will have many good years together and they are adjusting well to their new life after the accident. A lawsuit has been pending for over a year and they are hopeful a settlement will help them pay for future expenses if and when Don can retire. A situation that seemed hopeless is starting to look up.

Even tragedy can be overcome with a sense of purpose, some planning and the right professional help.

Joseph Wrobel, Ltd. helps people get control of their finances and a fresh start at financial freedom. The firm’s website contains informative videos about financial issues as well as bankruptcy protection for families who want a fresh start. To keep in touch and read about consumer finance news and stories you can Like the firm’s Facebook page and Follow Joseph Wrobel. Ltd. on Twitter. If you need immediate legal assistance, please call Joseph Wrobel, Ltd. by calling (312) 781-0996 to talk to an attorney today.