Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bankruptcy filings rebound

Long-term unemployment and small-business failures continue to propel personal bankruptcy filings, with Tennessee in step with a national trend that shows the number of cases spiking in July for the first time after declining for three months.
In addition, personal filings across the country surged 21 percent for the 12-month period ending June 30 compared with the same period a year ago, and Tennesseans continue to file for bankruptcy protection at a higher pace than residents of 48 other states.

"So many of us thought people would be back at work and the economy would start improving by this time, but it's not happened," said Nashville attorney Maria Salas, who said her solo law practice has seen just as many filings this year as a year ago.

Tennessee perennially scores high bankruptcy rates and this past year ranked behind only Nevada for having the second-highest bankruptcy rate nationally, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

For those who were laid off at the start of the recession nearly three years ago, some are just now filing for bankruptcy after failing to find work, exhausting savings and retirement funds while they

hunted for jobs and ran up credit card debts to pay household bills, bankruptcy lawyers say.

Small-business failures, such as those in the financial and construction sectors, have also thrust more middle- to upper-income families into bankruptcy court.

"It's not unusual for me to see someone with a $450,000 house — someone who made good money in the mortgage business or as a successful project manager for a construction company — who was living high, and now they're not," Salas said.

A total of 1.5 million personal bankruptcy cases were filed in federal courts during a 12-month period ending June 30, compared with 1.25 million for the same period a year earlier, according to the U.S. courts.

Add in tens of thousands of business filings, and this is the highest number of bankruptcy cases since many provisions of a revamped federal bankruptcy law took effect in 2005.

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