Do I Have to Pay Back Medical Bills That Show Up After a Bankruptcy Discharge?

By Beverly Bird

What you still have to pay after your bankruptcy discharge depends on what type of bankruptcy case you filed and when the debts were incurred. The determining date isn't when your discharge was granted -- it's the date you filed your petition. If you incur debts after this date, they're typically not dischargeable. If you inadvertently overlooked them when you filed your bankruptcy petition, however, you may have some options.

Amending Your Petition

If you forgot to include medical debts that existed at the time you filed for bankruptcy, you can amend your Chapter 7 petition to add them, even after your other debts have been discharged. You may not have to do this, however, if your case involved no assets, meaning there was nothing for the trustee to sell, so none of your creditors received anything. In a Chapter 13 case, you don't have to amend your whole petition if you forget to include debts, but only the terms of your repayment plan.

Post-Petition Debts

Although you can't discharge debts incurred after you file a Chapter 7 petition, an exception exists with regard to medical bills in Chapter 13 proceedings. If you incur additional medical debt after you file, these bills may be added to your repayment plan. If you add them, you must still pay them in full, plus any interest that accrues during the term of your plan. They're not discharged in the respect that you don't have to pay them, but bankruptcy's automatic stay prevents your creditors from hounding you for payment.

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Do You Have to File on Everything When You File for Chapter 13?
 

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Can Creditors Attempt to Get Money After a Discharge?

When you file a petition for bankruptcy, you are asking a federal court for protection from creditors and time to work out your financial difficulties. In a Chapter 7 case, the court authorizes a trustee to seize your assets and sell them in order to repay creditors. In a Chapter 13, the trustee sets up a repayment plan, taking into consideration your assets as well as your income. Unless the case is dismissed, both kinds of bankruptcy conclude with a cancellation of debts you owe to some — but not all — of your creditors.

Can You Reopen a Bankruptcy Chapter 7?

Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, most of your consumer debts are discharged by a court order within approximately six months from the filing of your petition. This discharge is important because it legally wipes away any claims that creditors have that you owe money on a debt so long as you identified the debt as part of your bankruptcy case. However, if you failed to identify a creditor as part of your case, you may be able to reopen the case under certain circumstances.

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Sometimes life can go from bad to worse. You file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, dig out from under your debts, then a short time later, you lose your job or something else goes wrong. Your fresh start isn't so fresh anymore, and you need to file again. There's no limit to the number of times you can file for Chapter 13 protection, but you can only do it so often.

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