Adrienne Woods, Esq.
The Faces of Bankruptcy
Imagine you’re walking down the street, following all laws and unspoken societal norms. Perhaps you just got out of work and you’re on your way home, looking forward to a pleasant evening. You work hard, but your life is fundamentally good – you are, generally, satisfied. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a car swerves onto the sidewalk and hits you. You lie there in a state of shock, unable to move. An ambulance comes and takes you to the hospital where your family meets you. You have a broken leg, but you learn that you will recover. You are relieved, of course, and when people ask you what happened you tell them. Something bad happened to you, after all – it isn’t as if you brought this on yourself and everyone knows it. You are the victim.
Now imagine a different scenario, where you arrive at the hospital and your family advises you in hushed tones not to tell anyone what happened. It’s embarrassing, and they don’t want the neighbors to know. Neither do you. What would people think of you for being so careless as to let yourself get hit by a car??? Clearly, this must be kept under tight wraps. You lay in pain, worried about your ability to work, take care of your family, even get out of bed. You are crushed by the humiliation – other people let themselves get hit by cars, not you!
The second scenario, of course, would never happen. Few people would be cold enough to blame the person who is hit by the car, even if they are walking down the middle of the street. So why, then, do we blame individuals and small businesses that find themselves in need of bankruptcy protection? One word comes to mind – misconceptions.
Most people have considered filing themselves, or their business, for bankruptcy. I know this not only because I have represented them, but because I know family and friends who have considered it. At one point in my life, I considered it too. I am grateful that I did not need to file, but I also walked away from the consideration with a different understanding of what drives a person to file for protection under the Bankruptcy Code. Of course, there are exceptions, but with alarming consistency it has absolutely nothing to do with anything the person did wrong. Something bad happened to them, and bankruptcy was their way to recover. In the same way that we don’t blame the person who got hit by the car, then, nor should we blame the person who finds themselves financially injured.
Consider that only one in four businesses succeeds. The people who founded the country understood this – and the parallel need for a bankruptcy system to encourage industry and innovation without fear of debtors’ prison. Consider too, that wages have not tracked the consumer price index for decades, making savings virtually impossible for most Americans and requiring a check-to-check existence. This lack of an ability to save leaves most Americans financially vulnerable to any number of calamities. Further, while there are many great things about America, it undeniably lacks the social safety nets of many other countries. I recently read an article about the fact that those serving in our military being unable to put food on the table for their families. And most of us are familiar with the lack of a good healthcare system accessible to everyone. When a reasonable person takes these and other factors into account, it is easy to see how any one of us could fall prey to financial ruin. Perhaps it’s my occupation that makes this so clear to me.
Some people will always believe that bankruptcy is a result of laziness, stupidity, just not wanting to pay your debts or any combination thereof. I will probably not change their minds. Big business, lenders, credit card companies – they’ve all done an excellent job indoctrinating the public that bankruptcy is bad – shameful. I, however, know that this isn’t true. Unlike your angry uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, my knowledge is not based on pre-existing misconceptions, mass indoctrination and prejudice. Instead, it is based on the many people I’ve helped over the years.
In my ongoing effort to destigmatize bankruptcy, this is the first in a series of articles to explain what led some of my clients to file for bankruptcy. Obviously, names and irrelevant facts are changed, but the underlying causes will be true and accurate depictions of why some people came to me for help and what I could – and could not – do for them. It is my sincere hope that when you read these stories, you will gain more understanding for what drives people to file for personal or business bankruptcy, how it can help, and why you should not think any less of them. And perhaps, if you are considering filing for bankruptcy but are ashamed, it will encourage you to take the brave and responsible step of calling an experienced attorney to see if bankruptcy can help you recover your life.
Call the Law Offices of Adrienne Woods, P.C. today for a free consultation to see if bankruptcy might be right for you. (917) 447-4321
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