Can I Be Sued After Chapter 7?

By Tom Streissguth

If your debts have become unmanageable, you have the option to file for bankruptcy protection. Under Chapter 7 of the federal bankruptcy code, you must submit a petition in bankruptcy court. You must notify the court of creditors to whom you owe money, and list your assets on the petition. A trustee takes control of your assets, which can be liquidated (sold) to pay secured debts. During this process, you are temporarily protected from creditor lawsuits.

Automatic Stay

A petition for bankruptcy results in an automatic stay, issued by the court in which you filed. The stay is a court order to creditors to cease all collection actions against you. Creditors are not allowed to contact you, demand payment by phone or letter or any other means, or initiate any litigation against you. Any pending lawsuits are stayed as well.


The bankruptcy court notifies all creditors whom you have listed on the bankruptcy petition. The law requires notification to all creditors, whether they are private or public, secured or non-secured. If you fail to list a creditor on the petition, however, there is no notification, and that creditor is not legally barred from continuing or initiating any lawsuits.

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At the end of a successful bankruptcy case, the court issues a discharge of all dischargeable debts. The creditors no longer hold any claims against your assets; therefore they are barred from filing a lawsuit to collect on their past-due accounts. If the debt is nondischargeable, however, you remain liable for the full amount, and you can be sued for repayment. Nondischargeable debts include federal and local taxes, federally guaranteed student loans, criminal restitution penalties, child support and alimony.

New Debts

Once the discharge occurs, your bankruptcy case is effectively over and you return to your pre-bankruptcy status: liable for all debts incurred since the filing of your bankruptcy petition. If you take out new loans, return to borrowing on credit cards, or buy a house with a mortgage, you are responsible for full repayment, and the creditors can bring legal action if the loans go delinquent. A bankruptcy case only protects you from lawsuits after the stay and before the discharge. The same applies if the bankruptcy is dismissed (for example, if you fail to meet the legal requirements for bankruptcy protection, or if the court finds you are capable of meeting your financial obligations). The automatic stay ends and you are again liable for repayment of any debts.


Debtors have the option to reaffirm debts in bankruptcy. This means that you accept the obligation to repay, even if the debt would otherwise be subject to discharge. This might occur if you wish to keep property that would otherwise be sold off by the bankruptcy trustee. The court must approve any reaffirmation agreements, and your creditor may sue you any time after the discharge for repayment if you can't meet the payments.

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Chapter 7 Relief of Stay


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How to Reinstate a Dismissed Bankruptcy

At the conclusion of your bankruptcy case, you typically will receive a bankruptcy discharge. A bankruptcy discharge means that all of the debts that are included in your bankruptcy case are erased and your creditors cannot pursue collection action against you to enforce the debts, like filing a civil lawsuit. During the bankruptcy case, you can ask the court to dismiss your case, or the court may dismiss your case on its own, and you will not receive a bankruptcy discharge. However, you can ask the bankruptcy court to reinstate your bankruptcy if it is dismissed by the court.

Eviction Notice & Bankruptcy

A tough stretch of financial misfortune can put you under the threat of eviction by your landlord. If you file for bankruptcy, you are asking a court to stay any collection actions against you by creditors. This may include landlords seeking to repossess your abode. If the landlord has already obtained a court judgment against you, however, you will receive an eviction notice and bankruptcy may not provide relief.

What If My Cosigner Files Bankruptcy?

If your debts have become unmanageable, you have the option of filing for bankruptcy protection. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you surrender non-exempt assets to a court-appointed trustee who uses them to repay your creditors. In a Chapter 13, the trustee administers a repayment plan under which you pay a percentage of your debts. At the end of your bankruptcy, the court discharges or cancels all debts that can legally be discharged. If you have cosigned a loan and your cosignor files for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you may still be responsible for repayment of the loan in full.

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