Can Social Security Overpayments Be Wiped Out in Bankruptcy?

Social Security Administration EmblemIn short, like many areas of the law, it depends. You are responsible for repaying these overpayments. However, if you file bankruptcy and include that debt on the bankruptcy and the government does not object to the discharge of the debt then it may be wiped out. As with any other unsecured creditor they will of course have a set amount of time to object to the discharge, but after that time is up then that debt will go away just like the others. Of course, if the bankruptcy Trustee looks deeper into your case and finds you received these overpayments fraudulently, then there is a possibility those overpayments will not be discharged.

Overpayment can happen because of something like you were out of work and receiving disability payments from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and go back to work sooner than expected and try and inform the SSA but they do not respond and keep paying you. Technically when they discover this, they are supposed to collect back from you the amount you were overpaid. But if you were to file bankruptcy and they did not object to the discharge, then they cannot collect that money from you.

What is a Notice of Rights to Have Exemptions Designated?

A Notice of Rights to Have Exemptions Designated is a fancy way of the creditor letting you know that your property is going to be taken from you.

Young Family Riding Bicycles TogetherAs mentioned in another blog post, after the creditor serves you with a lawsuit you have 30 days to provide a written response, also called an answer, which basically extends the amount of time you have until the creditor takes further action.

If you don’t respond to the lawsuit you will be served with a Default Judgment, which simply states that you owe money to a creditor.  Even if you do respond to the complaint by filing an answer the creditor will usually be successful on a summary judgment motion. This means the judge will decide that you don’t have a defense to owing the debt and they will find in the creditor’s favor.

After a creditor obtains a judgment against you, their next move in the collection process will be to serve you with a Notice of Rights to Have Exemptions Designated. You will most likely receive this paperwork similar to how you received the lawsuit and judgment, by the local Sheriff’s office or certified mail.  When you are served with the initial lawsuit, it is in your best interest to go ahead and contact a bankruptcy attorney before a judgment is issued against you.  However, this doesn’t mean if you have been served with a judgment and Notice of Rights to Have Exemptions Designated that filing for bankruptcy is not an option.  It is absolutely still an option; you just want to take action sooner rather than later so you do not risk losing your property.

When you are served with the Notice of Rights to Have Exemptions Designated you will have a chance to list out all of your property and utilize specific exemptions in regards to what you can and cannot protect.  However, the problem with doing so is that if you fail to list something or list it incorrectly protected, you run the risk of your property being taken from you.  You also have a timeframe to complete the right to have exemptions designated document and get it filed with the court, which is 20 days.

Far too often, clients tell us “I have nothing for them to take,” but this is usually not the case.  Many items are often subject to being seized such as land, house(s), car(s), bank accounts, etc.  A creditor will take whatever they can get and are doing so to try an repay the amount you owe them.  From our experience, many creditors feel by taking whatever they can from you, it not only gets your attention but will push the Debtor into wanting to make payments.  What they are not considering is the emotional impact it can have on you and your family.  If you are served with a Notice of Rights to Have Exemptions Designated and want to find out your options for protecting your property, you should contact a bankruptcy attorney immediately.  This is because after the Notice of Rights to Have Exemptions Designated has been served and you’ve been given the 20 days to file a response, a Writ of Execution will be placed against you.  This basically means that the Sheriff will come pick up, on behalf of the creditor, any goods that were not listed or protected.  This is where the exemption documentation that you completed by listing out your property is so important.  If the property is not listed correctly or not listed at all, you stand the high risk of the property being taken from you right then and there.

By filing bankruptcy an automatic stay goes into place, which stops the creditor (or Sheriff) from coming to seize any of your property.

Can I Recover Workers’ Comp Benefits if I Had a Heart Attack at Work?

EKG ImageLike many areas in the law, it depends.  If the heart attack occurred during your normal work activities, usually the heart attack injury is not compensable under North Carolina workers’ compensation laws.  For the injury to be compensable, the worker must show the heart attack was caused by some unusual or unexpected event and was in the course and scope of employment.

A good example would be an administrative assistant, who had a “desk job,” was on the first floor of a fifteen-story building.  Due to a power outage, the elevators were temporarily not working.  The worker’s supervisor told the worker to quickly go to the twelfth floor, via the stairs, to pick up some important documents. As the worker was going up the stairs she began to breath hard and over exerted herself.  As the worker reached the tenth floor, she began to have chest pain and suffered a heart attack.  This is a compensable act because this was not the normal routine of the administrative assistant to run up twelve flights of stairs.  Her normal job was to have a sedimentary job at her desk. She suffered a heart attack due to this “unusual event” of her running up ten flights of stairs. This injury should be covered under the workers compensation laws.

What if the employer knew the administrative assistant had a preexisting heart condition?  This would be irrelevant. The heart attack would still be compensable because the employer “takes the employee as they find them.”

What if a convenience store employee had a heart attack as an armed robber came into the store with a shotgun and pointed the shotgun at the clerk?  This would probably be compensable injury because it is not the “normal duties” of a convenience store clerk to have a shotgun pointed at them.

What if a store clerk was checking out a customer and the clerk had a heart attack?  Would this be compensable under the workers compensation laws?  Probably not, because the clerk was doing his “normal and customary duties ” when he suffered the heart attack.  Nothing out of the ordinary caused the clerk to have the heart attack.

The bottom line is, there must be some act or accident outside of the normal course of employment that caused the heart attack. There must be a causal connection between this act and the resulting heart attack. If you are looking for a Charlotte workers’ compensation attorney or Greensboro workers’ compensation lawyer be sure to contact us today.

Can I Get a New Apartment Lease During Bankruptcy?

You sure can! It may be a bit more difficult to find a place that will rent to you than it otherwise would be, but be patient. Depending on the rental agency, you may be required to pay a higher security deposit or even be required to have a co-signer. It really depends on the rental agency.

Family - Apartment

There is a chance that you may have to apply to several places before you find one that works. When applying, be up front with the apartment complex or rental agency about the fact that you filed bankruptcy. This will help because then it will not be a surprise to them when they go to check your credit. You may want to try smaller complexes or even rentals from individuals. They may be more willing to accept you even though you filed bankruptcy. They may not even check your credit, but that is up to them. Larger rental agencies are often required to do credit checks so you will find that it is common practice for large apartment complexes to do credit checks before they let you rent.

You may want to ask if you qualify for a short-term lease, maybe six months or so. This could provide you the opportunity to prove you are able to make the rent payments each month. After that period, they may be able and willing to provide you with a longer lease.  The ability to prove you have a steady income and are able to make the payments will hopefully indicate that you will be able to afford the rent.

If you have rented before, make sure to point out your good rental history. Be prepared that they may want to verify this so be sure you are truthful. Additionally, take the time to shop around. It may take some time to find the right place but be sure you do not settle for just anything. Even if you have filed bankruptcy that does not mean that you can only rent substandard housing. Be patient and shop around and hopefully you will find the right place for you.

If you suspect that you will have difficulty being approved to rent after your bankruptcy filing, you may want to go ahead and sign up for a lease prior to the filing of your bankruptcy petition. This would really apply to those who are surrendering their home in their bankruptcy and are certain they will need to find a new place to live. By signing a rental lease prior to filing your bankruptcy, you are avoiding the bankruptcy showing up on your credit report when the apartment complex checks your credit.

The good news, though, is that you do have options regarding finding a place to rent after bankruptcy, and you will be able to find the right place for you and your family. Be patient, do your research, and keep your mind open to all options.