Can I Keep Multiple Vehicles in a Bankruptcy?

Yes, most of the time.  The federal bankruptcy laws allow you to protect certain property by using state exemptions to protect the automobiles.  However, you can only protect up to a certain amount of equity in a vehicle.  For example, North Carolina allows you up to $3500 in a motor vehicle exemption to protect one vehicle per person filing bankruptcy.  Therefore you can have a vehicle that is bought and paid for to have a value up to $3500 using the motor vehicle exemption and protect the vehicle.  What if you have two vehicles titled in your name that are paid in full and have a total value of $6000?  Generally speaking you cannot protect, in full, both vehicles unless you have some “wildcard” exemption left over to use to help protect the second vehicle.  This wildcard exemption will be discussed on another topic, but it usually allows $5000 per person filing the bankruptcy to protect “other” property.  However there are exceptions, so check with an attorney at Duncan Law for specific advice.

Frequently Asked Bankruptcy Questions

Another unusual scenario is you hypothetically have ten brand new 2011 Mercedes each worth up to $100,000 each. However, you owe $100,000 on each vehicle.  Therefore you have no equity in the ten vehicles. With no equity in the vehicles, you can have ten new Mercedes worth one-million dollars and be able to keep all the vehicles, as long there is no equity and you continue to make you payments on the vehicles.  This is usually valid in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, however most Chapter 13 bankruptcy Trustees will not allow you to keep excessive vehicles that you do not need.

What if you have an old run down 2000 Mazda that is paid off in full, worth only $4500.  Remember, without your wildcard exemption you can only protect $3500 in value.  Therefore you have $1000 in excess equity and the Chapter 7 could seize the vehicle and sell it.  You would get the first $3500, the Trustee would receive anything in excess of $3500.

In conclusion, it doesn’t seem fair, you could lose the one old car that is paid for, but keep the ten new Mercedes since there is no equity in the vehicles. That’s why you need help from Duncan Law.

Who is the Bankruptcy Administrator? | North Carolina

In North Carolina, when you attend your creditors’ meeting you will see a number of different types of “court” officials. The creditors’ meeting isn’t really a court hearing but it is somewhat similar to court. The main types of representatives at the creditors meeting are the Debtor and Debtor’s attorney, any potential creditors, the Trustee and the Bankruptcy Administrator or someone from the Bankruptcy Administrator’s office.

North Carolina Flag

The Debtor is the person who owes money, the creditors are the people who money is owed to and the role of the Trustee has already been discussed. According to the Federal Courts, the Bankruptcy Administrator or their designated representatives’ job in North Carolina is to, “oversee the administration of bankruptcy cases, maintain a panel of private trustees, and monitor the transactions and conduct of parties in bankruptcy.”

In other words, the role of the Bankruptcy Administrator is to ensure creditors’ meetings run smoothly and any potential conflict between the Trustee (representing the creditors) and the Debtor and the Debtor’s attorney is kept to a minimum. This usually isn’t a problem since the creditors’ meetings tend to be non-adversarial meetings.

Also, the Bankruptcy Administrator has the ability to ask questions at the creditors’ meeting. Generally speaking, the Bankruptcy Administrator’s office will ask questions if your case is being converted from one type of bankruptcy to another or if they believe the Debtor(s) do not fall below the Means Test.

The Bottom Line: The Bankruptcy Administrator’s office handles administrative matters throughout the bankruptcy process.

Who Will Find Out That I Filed Bankruptcy?

A lot of people are concerned with who will find out about their bankruptcy if they choose to file bankruptcy. That is a legitimate and understandable concern. Once a bankruptcy petition has been filed with the court it becomes public record.  If a person is determined enough, the information can be obtained.  However, to find out if someone has filed for bankruptcy the person would need to sign up for an account on PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) and could be required to pay money to view the necessary information. For the most part, the only people that will be notified of the bankruptcy are the people that you are in debt with and/or owe money too.

Family Walking Holding Hands

Understandably, the main concern for people is family and friends finding out about their bankruptcy.  The only way that they will be notified of your bankruptcy is if you owe money to them.  They will have to be notified under federal law as creditor.  Also, if you are paying child support and/or alimony the recipient will have to be notified of your bankruptcy.  The reason for this is if you were to fall behind on a payment with child support and/or alimony then that could affect the outcome of your bankruptcy.

Another concern that clients have is if their employer will be notified.  They payroll department of your employer will likely be notified in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy because at least a portion of your monthly payment will be deducted from your paycheck. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy there is no reason the employer would find out about the bankruptcy unless they pulled your credit report.

Again, it is rare that people would be able to find out if you have filed bankruptcy. Unless you choose to tell people about your bankruptcy, most people will never find out.

Common Types of Birth Injuries | North Carolina Medical Malpractice

Father and Daughter on ComputerWhen a baby is injured at birth those injuries can often times lead to a life long injuries. A birth injury occurs when a newborn is injured during the labor process.  There are several types of birth injuries, some minor and easily remedied and some more serious.  Many birth injuries can be prevented by proper medical care and adhering to the appropriate medical standards.  There are many birth injuries, most of them minor, which can occur without any malpractice from the attending doctor.  Others are more serious and are caused by negligence or fault of the doctor, for these reasons it is important to consult an attorney on the specific facts of your case.

Many birth injuries affect the head and shoulders of the baby, since these are the parts of the baby’s body most affected during labor and the actual birth.  One minor birth injury is bruising on the baby’s head that can occur naturally from either the birth canal or the mother’s pelvic bones.  It is also common for a baby to have bruising if forceps or a vacuum are used to extract the baby during delivery.  These are tools commonly used during a delivery and rarely cause serious injury.  In rare situations, the forceps may actually fracture the skull of the infant and surgery may be needed to correct the injury.   Another common birth injury caused by a vacuum extraction is caput succedaneum, or a severe swelling of the child’s scalp; this usually disappears in a few days.  Another typical head injury is cephalohematoma, or a bleeding between the bone and it’s fibrous covering.  This will typically heal within a few weeks to a couple of months.

Sometimes during childbirth, the baby’s shoulder can become impaired and cause nerve damage in the area that controls the movement of the arms and hands.  This is known as Erb’s Palsy, an injury to the brachial plexus nerves in the neck and shoulder.  Normally, the injury will heal within a few months but occasionally there will be permanent damage and surgery will be needed.  The severe cases of brachial plexus nerve injury are most often reviewed as possible medical malpractice by the obstetrician or midwife, since the potential for injury should often be identified during the labor process.

Some more serious birth injuries include brain damage from a lack of oxygen that can be caused by an umbilical cord or blood loss.  This type of injury can cause cerebral palsy, seizure disorders or mental impairment.  These injuries can often be avoided with proper monitoring during the labor process.

Birth injuries are more common in larger babies (over 9 pounds) and in premature babies.  A long or difficult childbirth also correlates with more birth injuries.  If a woman has had a difficult birth in the past, it is important to alert the doctor of this history as soon as the mother becomes pregnant.  In these cases, the mother and child should be closely monitored throughout the pregnancy.  Often the doctor may recommend a Cesarean section rather than a vaginal birth to avoid possible injury in difficult pregnancies.  A doctor not taking appropriate action either in anticipation of the likelihood of a difficult birth or after birth injuries have been detected is when medical malpractice becomes an issue.

What Happens to My House if I File Bankruptcy? | NC Bankruptcy

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpUsbDIX_Q8[/youtube]

 

This is something you will want to discuss with your attorney in more detail prior to filing bankruptcy. However, generally speaking, you will not lose your home if you file bankruptcy as long as the equity in your property is fully exempt.

House in Bankruptcy

In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy:
If you are filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you want to keep your house, you must be current on your mortgage payments on the date that you file your bankruptcy and remain current. It is very important that you continue to make your monthly house payments on time and comply with the terms of your loan if you wish to keep your house. If you get behind on your payments the mortgage company has the right to file a Motion for Relief from Automatic Stay with the Court asking for permission to foreclose on your home.

In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy:
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy can stop a foreclosure on your house. If you are behind on your mortgage, there are options under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy that would allow you to catch up on the payments even if your house has gone into foreclosure.

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy you will be paying back your secured debts (i.e., mortgage payments and car loans), what you were behind on your house prior to filing bankruptcy, and a portion of your unsecured debts over a 3 to 5 year time frame.

If there is excess equity in your property that is not fully exempt you may still be able to keep your home by filing a Chapter 13 instead of a Chapter 7.  In a Chapter 13 you would be required to pay back the non-exempt value to the creditors listed in your bankruptcy over the three to five years through your monthly payments to the Chapter 13 Trustee.

Is A Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Better on a Credit Report?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auCKjDA3MfA[/youtube]
This is a question we are asked all the time. Each bankruptcy attorney probably has his or her own opinion on which type of bankruptcy is best for your credit report. After filing thousands of bankruptcies over the years, we don’t believe that there is that much, if any, difference between a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Married Couple - North Carolina Bankruptcy

Some attorneys argue that a Chapter 7 may be better because you can get a discharge more quickly that you can in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. That, in turn, will allow you to have more disposable income that allows you to obtain more credit. On the other hand, other attorneys will argue that in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy you are paying back a portion of your debts, which will look better to a potential lender. The reality is, we haven’t seen much of a difference at all.

The typical duration of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing usually lasts approximately four to six months from the time your petition is filed with the bankruptcy court until the time you receive your letters of Discharge of Debt and Final Decree.  Once you receive your Discharge and Final Decree, you may immediately start to rebuild your credit.

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing consists of a payment plan in which you are obligated to make a monthly payment to the Trustee’s office so that the funds may be distributed amongst your creditors each month.  The Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing usually lasts anywhere from three to five years and then you receive your letters of Discharge of Debt and Final Decree.

A bankruptcy typically stays on your credit report for seven to ten years.  After the seven-year point, you should contact the credit reporting agencies with a letter indicating that the item has been on your report for seven years and request the agency to remove the poor mark from your credit report. They could deny your request but we suggest that you at least try to get the bankruptcy removed.

There’s no doubt about it, bankruptcy will have a negative impact on your credit. Anyone who tells you differently isn’t being completely honest with you. However, your credit probably isn’t all that great immediately before filing the bankruptcy. Bankruptcy will give you the opportunity to get a fresh financial start and then rebuild your credit. Regardless of which type of bankruptcy you file, rebuilding your credit will take sticking to a budget and being purposeful in how you seek credit moving forward.

What is Cerebral Palsy and What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

A Babies FeetCerebral palsy is an injury to the brain either by natural causes or by the mistake of a physician.

Cerebral palsy usually develops during the fetal development of a child, during the birth of a child, or shortly after the birth of a child.  The injury is usually caused by lack of oxygen to the brain, or some type of trauma to the brain of the child.  Cerebral palsy is a permanent condition that does not improve; however, with advanced treatment and therapy, many children may live productive lives.

Sadly, some children that develop cerebral palsy must receive 24-hour care for the rest of their lives and may not live to a “normal age” due to other medical problems as a result of the cerebral palsy.

Many times the brain injury of the child is caused by the medical negligence of a physician before, during, or immediately after the birthing process of the child. If you believe your child’s physician committed medical malpractice in the care and birth of your child, and this caused the cerebral palsy birth injury, you should contact an attorney who deals with medical malpractice and birth injuries to further explore your options.

What if I Have a Lawsuit or Judgment Against Me, Can Bankruptcy Help?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKZoov7S1f8[/youtube]
Times are tough right now and sometimes we would like to pay our debts but just simply can’t.  While it would be nice to call the creditor and explain your situation, the fact of the matter is, they are still going to expect the money that you owe them.  Unfortunately, creditors aren’t always willing to understand your situation. Once you do not pay, they have the right to sue for the money, which is called a “judgment”.

Signing a Document

At times there can be some misunderstanding as to what exactly a judgment is. A judgment is what results when you are sued and either don’t respond to the lawsuit or lose the lawsuit. The judge, in finding in favor of the creditor, will award a judgment on their behalf.

Below is a brief timeline on how a lawsuit turns into a judgment:

A lawsuit (complaint) is served from the sheriffs’ department or some other servicing organization. That’s where the common phrase, “you’ve been served” comes from.

From the date that the lawsuit is served, you have 30 days to give a WRITTEN response.  You must include a copy to the people who are suing, and have it filed with the courts stating that you are contesting the amount.  They will stamp it.  Make 3 copies; one for you, one that the court is going to keep, and the other will be sent to the attorneys handling the judgment. Doing this will extend the amount of time

The courts will set a hearing date.  You will get a DEFAULT JUDGMENT for not showing up to the hearing.  This will basically state that you owe the money. If you do show up to the hearing, unless you can prove that you do not owe the debt the courts will likely rule against you and issue a judgment.

Next will be a RIGHT TO HAVE EXEMPTIONS DESIGNATED.  This is just a fancy way to tell you that your creditors are about to try to come take your property. You will have a chance to list all personal property that you wish to protect and you’ll have to use certain types of exemptions to protect your property. If you fill the right to have exemptions designated document out incorrectly you run the risk of losing your property.

After this they will get a WRIT OF EXECUTION which will state that the sheriff will be coming to get the goods that were not exempted.

To protect yourself and your property, you can either pay the amount that is owed (plus the interest that has occurred over time) or file bankruptcy.  By filing bankruptcy, you are protected by an “automatic stay” which will stop the creditors from collecting from you or pursuing the judgment further.   If the judgment has already been placed against you, you can still file a bankruptcy to get rid of it, but you will need to discuss with your attorney, your further actions.  Many times, if you own a home, a judgment automatically puts a lien on your home, and although the bankruptcy will take care of the debt that you owe, separate motions will need to be filed to remove the lien from your property.

The bottom line is you will want to explore the option of bankruptcy before you have a judgment against you if at all possible. If you already have a judgment against you, you will want to contact a bankruptcy attorney immediately to see what options you have to ensure that your property is protected.

What is the Statute of Limitations If a Doctor Caused an Injury?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlzGf0LXtck[/youtube]

.

Unfortunately, there are times when a trusted doctor makes a mistake that causes serious or irreversible harm to a patient. If you or a loved one have been injured by a doctor or medical facility, you may be considering hiring a lawyer to file a lawsuit against your doctor so that others will not suffer similar injuries and so that you can be compensated for your injury.  However, it is important to keep in mind the legal deadlines that limit when you are able to file a lawsuit against a doctor.

The legal deadlines are called the “Statute of Limitations,” which are generally certain time frames within which a lawsuit can be filed against a doctor after an injury has occurred. The Statute of Limitations for injuries caused by doctors varies from state to state. In North Carolina, the Statute of Limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit is three years from either: 1) the date the injury or wrongdoing occurred, or 2) the date the injury was or should have been discovered, but not more than four years from the date the injury or wrongdoing occurred.

EKG Photograph

If you have been injured by what you consider to be a doctor’s mistake or negligence, you do not want to wait until the last minute to contact an attorney. A medical malpractice attorney in North Carolina usually needs at least 6 to 8 weeks to review your medical records to determine whether or not you have a potential claim against your doctor. Using a hypothetical situation, pretend you suffered an injury due to a doctor’s negligence from a surgery that occurred on January 1, 2005, and that you discovered the injury on the same day as the surgery. Now pretend that you do not contact a lawyer until December 31, 2007.

You are only one day away from the end of the three-year Statute of Limitations. It is highly likely that you are going to have a difficult time finding a lawyer to represent you because the lawyer will have only one day to decide whether or not you have a good case and to actually file the lawsuit.

Now let’s pretend that instead of contacting a lawyer on December 31, 2007, you contact a lawyer on January 2, 2008. This would be one day after the three year Statute of Limitations, and even if you had a multi-million dollar lawsuit, you would have no opportunity to pursue the lawsuit because the legal timeframe has passed.

The bottom line is that it is vital to your case to remember exact dates regarding the injury you suffered, and to contact a lawyer as soon as you realize you have been injured, so that you are not barred from filing a lawsuit simply because you let too much time lapse.

How Long Does a Medical Malpractice Case Take if I’m Suing a Doctor?

Female Doctor Examining an X-RayThe timeline for resolving a medical malpractice case against a doctor will vary from a year to several years with the average case taking approximately two years.  Why the variation?  Each case is unique.   There are several factors that impact the timeline in a case.


Were there several doctors or healthcare providers involved in the care? In other words, are there multiple healthcare providers that could be at fault in the medical malpractice case.  It is rare that a case is clear-cut against a doctor.  Usually there are multiple doctors, a hospital or nursing home, physical therapy, occupational therapy, home health and other providers of care involved in a case.  As a result, the case must be thoroughly reviewed to determine who is believed to be at fault for the adverse result.  Often, it is more than one healthcare provider.


What experts do you need in a case? In North Carolina, you are required to obtain expert witnesses that are willing to testify to the doctor’s negligence or malpractice prior to a lawsuit being filed with the Court.  First, you must find a doctor within the same subspecialty.  In other words, if you believe an orthopedist committed malpractice, you must find another orthopedist to testify against the doctor.  In addition, the expert physician must be willing to testify that the doctor accused of medical malpractice deviated from the standard of care.  This is the medical and legal professions way of saying the doctor accused of malpractice acted in a way that was different from the way other physicians within the same subspecialty would have acted.  If there are several doctors or healthcare providers involved in the medical malpractice case, you must find experts in each field of practice.


Am I re questions must I answer and how much information am I required to provide? Filing the lawsuit does not usually take that long.  However, the process of interrogatories or questions and production of documents can take some time.  In other words, you and your attorney must respond to questions and a list of information requested by the defense attorney.  In addition, you and your attorney will submit interrogatories and production of documents to the defense.  The process of submitting and reviewing these documents may take some time.  And often, the responses lead to additional questions and requests for documents.


How long does it take for questioning and information before the trial? Prior to the trial, the defense attorney will usually question or depose you about the case.  They will usually depose any family or friends that were with you at the time along with the experts you have hired in your case.  In addition, your attorney will depose the doctor accused of malpractice, the experts the doctor has hired and others involved in your case.  This process is time consuming since you must coordinate with multiple parties which often requires travel to other areas of the state or country.


How long will the trial take? If your case goes to trial, you must first seat a jury.  This often takes two or three days.  The trial itself is usually one and one half to four weeks depending on the complexity of the case.  Obviously it can take longer if there are multiple defendants or there is an extraordinary amount of testimony required in the case.  The jury will often deliberate for a few days in the case.

As a result of these factors, you can understand why it takes so long to sue a doctor and get to trial in a medical malpractice case.