How Does Bankruptcy Affect My Car Accident Settlement?

Explore how bankruptcy affects car accident settlements and why expert legal support is crucial. Get in touch with us today for guidance.
Published:  November 13, 2023

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Bankruptcy is a complex legal process that can significantly impact various aspects of your life. When it intersects with a car accident settlement, it raises important questions.

In this blog post, we'll explore how bankruptcy affects your car accident settlement and why you should consider hiring a lawyer to navigate this intricate terrain. If you're facing these challenges, remember, that you're not alone.

The experienced legal team at The Mike Hostilo Law Firm is here to help you every step of the way.

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Types of Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy, often referred to as "liquidation bankruptcy,” involves the liquidation of your non-exempt assets to pay off your debts. It can significantly impact your car accident settlement in several ways.

When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a trustee is appointed to oversee your case. The trustee's primary role is to sell any non-exempt assets and distribute the proceeds to creditors.

This means that if your car accident settlement is not fully protected by exemptions you may be required to use a portion of it to satisfy your debts.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 bankruptcy, on the other hand, is often called "reorganization bankruptcy". It allows individuals to create a manageable repayment plan for their debts. This chapter can offer more flexibility when it comes to protecting your assets, including your car accident settlement.

Under Chapter 13, you can propose a repayment plan that allows you to keep your assets while making affordable payments to your creditors over a period of three to five years. This can be advantageous for protecting your car accident settlement and other valuable assets.

Personal Injury Claim Bankruptcy Exemptions

The Mike Hostilo Law Firm - A man is sitting on a couch with a clipboard in front of him while consulting with a personal injury attorney.

Now, let's delve into how specific elements of your car accident settlement may be affected by bankruptcy:

Bodily Injury

In the states of Georgia and South Carolina, the law exempts a certain amount for personal injury claims related to bodily injury to yourself or a dependent.

The specific exemption amounts may vary, but these exemptions ensure that a significant portion of your car accident settlement related to bodily injury is protected from being used to pay off your debts during bankruptcy.

However, it's essential to note that any portion of the award designated for pain and suffering may not be exempt and could be considered part of your bankruptcy estate.

Lost Wages

If part of your car accident settlement is intended to compensate for lost wages, you may be able to exempt a certain percentage of that portion.

The language of the law regarding compensation for lost wages may have some variations between Georgia and South Carolina, so it's advisable to consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney for guidance.

Protecting your lost wages compensation is crucial, as it can play a significant role in your financial recovery after an accident.

Property Damage

Compensation for property damage, such as the cost to repair your vehicle after a car crash, is typically not exempt and will be included in your bankruptcy estate.

This means that if you're filing for bankruptcy, the portion of your car accident settlement related to property damage could potentially be used to repay your creditors.

Future Wages

If part of your car accident settlement covers lost future wages, you can exempt that portion if you receive it within a specific time frame before you file for bankruptcy and can demonstrate a genuine need for it to support yourself.

This exemption can be essential for maintaining your financial stability during and after the bankruptcy process.

Wrongful Death Suits

If you receive compensation in a wrongful death suit for a person upon whom you were dependent, you may be able to exempt some or all of that compensation under certain conditions. To qualify for this exemption, you must receive the money within a specific time frame before filing for bankruptcy and show that you actually need it to support yourself and your dependents.

General Exemptions

In addition to specific exemptions for personal injury claims, both Georgia and South Carolina offer general exemptions that can help protect more of your award:

Cash or Bank Account Exemption

Georgia and South Carolina laws allow you to exempt a certain amount of cash or funds in a bank account. These exemptions can be valuable if you've already received a portion of your personal injury compensation in cash or if it's in your bank account. By using these exemptions, you can safeguard a portion of your award from being included in your bankruptcy estate.

"Wild Card" Exemption

Georgia and South Carolina offer a "wild card" exemption that allows you to exempt a specific amount, which you can use to protect any asset, including a personal injury claim. This versatile exemption provides an additional layer of protection for your assets, ensuring that you can keep as much of your car accident settlement as possible.

The Timing of Bankruptcy in Relation to Personal Injury Lawsuits

The timing of your bankruptcy filing in relation to your personal injury lawsuit is critical. Here's a closer look at how timing can impact your case:

Filing for bankruptcy before your personal injury lawsuit finds resolution can simplify the process. By doing so, you can address your existing debts and financial challenges before receiving your settlement. This approach can provide a fresh start and ensure that your car accident settlement is protected from the outset.

However, if you've already received your car accident settlement and are considering bankruptcy, timing is equally important. You must carefully plan when to file for bankruptcy to maximize your exemptions and protect as much of your award as possible.

Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney who understands both bankruptcy laws and personal injury cases is essential during this stage. They can help you navigate the complexities of timing to achieve the best outcome for your unique situation.

The Mike Hostilo Law Firm - A man covering his face with his hands while working on his laptop after experiencing a personal injury from an auto accident.

Let Us Do The Heavy Lifting

Navigating bankruptcy alongside a car accident settlement can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. The key is to seek professional legal guidance from experts who understand both bankruptcy laws and personal injury cases.

At The Mike Hostilo Law Firm, help individuals like you find the best possible outcome. Whether you're dealing with Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, we have the expertise to ensure your settlement is protected to the fullest extent allowed by law.

If you're asking yourself, "How does bankruptcy affect my car accident settlement?" or searching for the best lawyer for car accidents, look no further.

Contact The Mike Hostilo Law Firm today and let us help you navigate these complex legal waters with confidence. Your future is important, and we're here to fight for your rights and the compensation you deserve.

The Mike Hostilo Law Firm

33 Park of Commerce Blvd
Savannah, GA
(844) 203-9338

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© 2023 Michael G. Hostilo, LLC
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Locations - South CarolinaBeaufort
Law Offices - AlabamaPhenix City
*"Contingent attorneys” "No fee unless you win or collect" and "You only pay us if we win your personal injury claim" fees refer only to those fees charged by attorneys for their legal services. Such fees are not permitted in all types of cases. Court costs and other additional expenses of legal action usually must be paid by the client.

Any result the lawyer or law firm may achieve on behalf of one client in one matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.

Mike Hostilo is not licensed to practice law in South Carolina.
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