When you file your bankruptcy case,the creditors must stop calling you. They can’t continue garnishing your wages. They must stop all collection activities because every bankruptcy case protects the debtor with the “automatic stay.” The automatic stay prohibits creditors from taking actions against you, unless they obtain a permission from the bankruptcy court.
While there are some exceptions, primarily for matters involving marital obligations, otherwise known as “domestic support obligations”, for most people and most debts, bankruptcy provides real relief.
If creditors keep calling you, mailing you, garnishing your wages or taking other actions against you, call your lawyer immediately. Regardless of whether the creditors acted with or without the knowledge of your filing, a bankruptcy lawyer make them stop. Also, regardless of whether the creditors acted with or without the knowledge of your filing, the creditors may be liable for actual and even punitive damages as well as attorneys fees.
Section 362 of the US Bankruptcy Code states that § 362. Automatic stay states that the filing of a petition in bankruptcy operates as a stay “applicable to all entities, of the commencement or continuation, of any action against the debtor.” Section 362(k) states that an individual injured by any willful violation of a stay shall recover actual damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees, and, in appropriate circumstances, may recover punitive damages.
So what’s a willful violation of a stay? The creditor needs to know that you have filed for bankruptcy. It must take an action to collect against the debtor after that stay is in effect. The creditor doesn’t need to willfully violate the stay, it needs to willfully take the action. That means the creditor needs to send out the collection letter after that creditor knows of the stay.
Here in Rochester, Judge Ninfo addressed the issue of willful violation of automatic stay in In re Engel, holding that mailing of a billing statement after the bankruptcy was filed was a willful violation of automatic stay. In Engel, the creditor was listed in bankruptcy schedules and was also contacted by the debtor’s attorney who demanded that the creditor stop any and all contact with the debtor. Even after the debtor’s attorney notified the creditor, the creditor mailed two additional billing statements. While the creditor claimed that the contact with the debtor was an unintentional mistake, the court found that the creditor’s actions were intentional and ordered a hearing on damages.
If you are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a bankruptcy attorney.