A Brand New Financial Start through Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

According to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rate during year-ends 2012, 2013 and 2014 were 7.9, 6.7 and 5.6, respectively (from a high of 9.9 during the Great Recession of 2008-09). While the term unemployment may suggest a negative meaning (such as when people are laid off or quit their work while looking for a new job) or a positive meaning (as may be the case when a company makes technological improvements, replacing human workers with machines for consistently fast work output, or when a job is outsourced), for workers who have been displaced from their work, the term can only signify one sense: financial problems.

For millions of wage earners in the US, who may just have enough salary to enable them to cover all their financial concerns between salary dates, losing their source of income, even for just a month or two, can result to unpaid monthly bills, loans or mortgages – the possible start of a crushing debt crisis.

Banks give debtors the chance to settle late payments for their loans; however, after being continuously delinquent for about three to six months, rules will require these banks to consider unpaid bills as bad debts and, so, refer a debtor’s account to a collection agency, which does not shy away from using hounding tactics in order to make a debtor pay.

In an article found in the website of Greenway Bankruptcy Law, LLC, this firm recognizes the stress and difficulty that debtors experience in coping with their debts. Besides the sleepless nights due to inability to pay their mortgage, car loan, student loan, medical bills and/or credit card bills, the thought of the possibility of losing their home or car plus all the text messages, letters, emails, phone calls and other forms of harassing tactics from collection agents, can be just too much. But rather than allowing debtors to legally suffer the consequences of their delinquency or inability to pay, this Greenway Bankruptcy Law firm informs debtors that there are various types of solutions, legal ones, which will save them from all forms of debts, regardless of how enormous these may be. One of these solutions is bankruptcy, designed as a legal means for individuals and businesses to get out of debt for a chance at a brand new financial start.

The Bankruptcy Code, which was enacted by the US Congress in 1978 and which completely replaces the Bankruptcy Act of 1898, also called the Nelson Act, is composed of various Bankruptcy Chapters (7, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 15, which was added to the Bankruptcy Code in 2005) each designed to address the specific financial situation of those seeking protection under the Bankruptcy law.

Records from the United States Courts (http://www.uscourts.gov/statistics-reports/us-bankruptcy-courts-judicial-business-2014) show that from 2010 to 2013, the average number of bankruptcy applications filed in various U.S. federal bankruptcy courts was 1,358,104. The average number of applications filed during the same years under the different Chapters is as follows: Chapter 7 = 952,948; Chapter 11 = 11, 583; Chapter 12 = 582; and, Chapter 13 = 392, 879.

Chapter 7, specifically, which is the bankruptcy chapter most commonly applied for, involves liquidation. This chapter requires a debtor to surrender all of his/her “non-exempt” properties for liquidation and cease operation of his/her business if he/she has one. Non-exempt properties usually include a vacation home, a second house, expensive musical instruments (but only if the debtor is not a musician by trade), cash, bonds, stocks and other forms of investment. Exempt properties, on the other hand, include items which are considered necessary for working and living; a number of examples are a house, a vehicle (or vehicles but only up to a certain value), clothing, necessary household appliances, personal injury compensation, tools necessary to the debtor’s trade or profession, and jewelry (up to a certain value).

A trustee appointed by the court will take charge of the liquidation of the debtor’s non-exempt properties and use the amount earned to pay all of the debtor’s non-dischargeable debts, such as child support and alimony or spousal support, court fees, government-imposed penalties, debts resulting from wrongful death or personal injury, student loans (unless debtor would suffer “undue hardship” if he/she were to keep paying these), and taxes (federal, state, and local) that are no more than 3 years old since these first became due. If the amount of liquidated properties is more than enough to pay all non-dischargeable debts, the remaining amount will have to be returned to the debtor. Otherwise, creditors will have to accept the (legally determined) amount they are paid, even if this falls short of the actual amount owed to them. Besides this, they should also follow a decision made by the court which is to forgive any balance from the debt and to stop any further collection of payment, or suffer severe penalties under federal law.

With regard to other debts, which include medical bills, past utility bills, personal loan from employer, family or friends, and, most especially, credit card bills, all of these are considered dischargeable debts, thus the court automatically frees the debtor from any further obligation of paying these, at the same time ordering creditors to cease any form of collection from the debtor.

Furthermore, once bankruptcy is filed in court, the debtor immediately is benefitted as all interest charges on loans as well as all legal and harassing tactics from creditors will cease; this is called the “automatic stay.” Even a single attempt by a creditor to try to make a debtor pay can result to legal consequences against him or her.

Each bankruptcy chapter has requirements which will determine qualification. For chapter 7, an applicant will be required to take a means test – this is to determine if his/her salary is within the limit set under this specific chapter.

The law firm Erin B. Shank, PC, explains on its website how filing for bankruptcy can help an individual or business “restructure, significantly reduce, or altogether eliminate” debts and work towards financial independence. It is necessary, however, that one first understands what bankruptcy really is, what it does and which chapter will address and solve all financial problems, considering such individual’s or business’ specific financial situation.

Treatments Sometimes Cause Serious Health Conditions

One drug that is included in the World Health Organization’s list of medicines necessary in the basic health system and which, in 2006, became one of the top selling drugs in the US, is Zofran. Generically known as Ondansetron, Zofran was formulated to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting in patients who have just had surgery, radiation therapy or cancer chemotherapy – the same purpose for which this drug was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1991.

Due to Zofran’s efficacy in blocking serotonin, a natural substance inside the body that causes vomiting, its manufacturer, London-based GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), confidently endorsed it for off-label use, specifically for relief from morning sickness, which pregnant women feel during the first trimester of their pregnancy. Aside from this, GSK, as affirmed by the US Department of Justice, also rewarded doctors who prescribed Zofran for morning sickness.

One major issue that involved GSK, Zofran and pregnant women (even prior to Zofran being recommended to treat morning sickness) was the fact that GSK had never tested Zofran on pregnant women, thus the absence of records which will show if the drug is actually safe or harmful to the mother or her unborn child or to both. It seems, however, that the truth behind this issue of being safe or harmful has been known by GSK as early as 1992 due to lawsuit based on birth defect that was filed against it. Despite this knowledge, said manufacturer continued to promote Zofran to treat morning sickness.

There are many different side effects linked to Zofran, including swelling of the body, fainting, difficulty in breathing and/or swallowing, drowsiness, tiredness, dizziness or lightheadedness, constipation, headache, and irregularity in heartbeat. However, none of these side-effects can outweigh the severity of harm which is birth defect (such as cleft palate, cleft lip, or congenital heart defects) which also happens to be the basis of so many lawsuits against GSK.

There are many other things that Zofran users need to understand about this drug, including details about the birth defects linked to it, its history with the FDA, what this product really is, and the legal rights of individuals harmed by it. Information about other defective pharmaceutical products can be found at www.williamskherkher.com/practice-areas/defective-pharmaceuticals/.

While it is the duty of drug and medical supply manufacturers to ensure the effectivity and safety of all their products, they are not given the right to market these products for off-label use. Even if a product is intended as treatment for only one type of health condition, manufacturers still have the legal and moral obligation to test it to clearly determine who can use it safely and who can be harmed by it.

It is alarming, therefore, to know that tens of thousands of patients remain to be harmed either by prescription drugs or medical devices every year. Zofran is just one of the hundreds of drugs found and proven to cause adverse effects; with regard to medical devices, one recently identified harmful product is the power morcellator, a medical device designed to cut large tissues into tiny pieces.

Morcellators were introduced in the 1990s and were intended to aid physicians perform a laparoscopic surgery (such as hysterectomy and myomectomy) that is as painless and bloodless as possible, besides being a fast procedure. Furthermore, unlike in open surgery, the traditional way of performing surgeries, an abdominal incision that was about six to nine inches long is required, while in a laparoscopic surgery, which is a minimally invasive procedure and which makes use of a morcellator, four very tiny incisions, each measuring about 0.5 – 1cm. are all that is required.

Myomectomy is the surgical removal of fibroids from the uterus, while hysterectomy is a procedure wherein the entire uterus, or womb, is removed due to any of the following conditions:

  • Cancer of the uterus, cervix, or ovaries
  • Severe pains due to endometriosis, a condition wherein the tissues lining the uterus grow outside of it instead or in an abdominal or pelvic organ, like the ovary, or fallopian tube
  • Uterine prolapse, a condition wherein the uterus drops into the vagina as the tissues that hold it in place have become weak
  • Growth of large uterine fibroids (or benign/non-cancerous tumors) which cause bleeding, chronic pelvic pain, and bladder pressure
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Adenomyosis, a condition wherein the wall between the lining of the uterus (called endometrium), and the uterus’ muscle is broken, causing the endometrial glands to grow into the uterus’ muscle; this further results to the enlargement of the uterus

Despite the benefits and advantages provided by morcellators, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a safety communication notice to doctors on April 17, 2014, to discourage them from the further use of the device in surgical procedures, especially in fibroids removal through myomectomy. Morcellators, as studies show, caused the development of leiomyosarcoma, a deadly type of cancer, during the morcellation/cutting of these fibroids. The actual reason behind the development of leiomyosarcoma is the spread of the almost undetectable cancerous tissues called uterine sarcoma, which usually grows with fibroids and which also gets cut into very small pieces (along with the fibroids).

The first company to respond to the FDA’s safety communication notice was Ethicon, a unit of Johnson & Johnson and which happens to be the largest manufacturer of power morcellators around the globe. While Ethicon’s move to cease the manufacture, promotion and sales of its morcellators may be considered as a really positive move, it may have come late as thousands of women have already been treated with the device.

Definitely, not all of those who have been treated with a morcellator will develop leiomyosarcoma since not all those with fibroids also have uterine sarcoma. For those who have been diagnosed with the deadly cancer, however, consulting with a morcellator lawsuit attorney may be in their best interest. A website with address, www.williamskherkher.com/practice-areas/defective-pharmaceuticals/morcellators/ offers substantial information which someone diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma may just want to know.

Next Entries »