I’m Disabled and in Debt: Can I be Sued for the Money I Owe?

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Maybe you were plugging along with a solid debt-snowball plan that was going swimmingly, effectively reducing your overall debt bit by bit before you became disabled. Disability can happen to anyone, at any time, and can come in an endless number of forms. Whether you were in a vehicular accident, had a serious fall, or if you have been diagnosed with a serious illness or disease, the effect on your finances can be simply devastating.

Regardless of the cause of your disability, if you also have a large amount of debt you can’t repay, you may be feeling helpless and afraid of what will happen next. Will the credit card company sue you? Will you go to jail? Will your family be responsible for your debts?

The bad news is that you can be sued for unpaid debts, however, it’s the best kind of bad news you can get. If your disability has caused you to be unable to work, you probably don’t have very much money in your bank account. The good news, then, is that you have no money for your creditors to take, even if they do sue you. You don’t have to worry about going to jail, either, unless your creditor is your ex-spouse and the unpaid debt is child support. Even then, a change in life circumstance (your disability) can be entered into your family court case, which will reduce your support payments while you are disabled. And your family will not be responsible for debts taken out in your name only.

What if I collect Social Security disability benefits?

If your creditor sues you for a debt you owe them, they can have your bank account levied if you refuse to pay the judgement amount (your refusal would make sense if you actually can’t pay it due to lack of money.) However, some debtors do find themselves with at least some money in their bank accounts if they receive payments from Social Security due to their disability. The good news here is that disability funds are exempt from collection by creditors or collection agencies.

For those of you who are receiving disability benefits, it is of the utmost importance that you keep your disability money distinctly separated from any other monies you may receive. It is best to open a new bank account that will only receive deposits from Social Security. If you commingle your Social Security funds with any other funds that may trickle in while you are not working (gifts from family, yard sale money, proceeds from selling stuff on eBay) – you can risk losing some of your Social Security money if a levy is placed upon your bank account(s).

While many disabilities are short-lived, some are not, and still others are difficult to predict. Because of the unpredictable nature of so many disabilities, illnesses and injuries, your best bet is to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This will rid you of the debt that is currently hanging over your head like a dark cloud and will release you from worrying about it. Your ability to focus on healing physically will undoubtedly improve with the weight of your debts lifted.

Your credit rating will take a hit if you decide to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Jersey. The same is true if you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, the benefits of wiping out your extensive debts while you’re disabled are much greater than the effects of a lower credit score at this time. Your bankruptcy attorney will be able to help you improve your credit score after your bankruptcy discharge, so that you can get it moving back in the right direction, just as you will be able to improve your mental and physical health without the stress of owing so much money.

Image credit: Alexander Edward

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