Hoosier Hard-Luck Tales: Unusual Circumstances and Unexpected Medical Bills

Here are some examples of good hard-working Hoosiers who experienced bad luck, which caused them to file for bankruptcy:

A 20-something Hoosier was working his tail off trying to become an owner/operator of his own semi truck and refrigerated trailer. While delivering beer around a city he “topped the truck,” which means he hit a bridge. The unfortunate incident happened when he was driving a new route in a city he had not been in before. He drove under a bridge that was immediately followed by another bridge. He checked the clearance sign for the first bridge and saw that it was not a problem, but right after that was the second lower bridge he was not aware of, so he did not have time to react.

Because the driver destroyed half a load of beer, he could not find business for his truck after the incident and his insurance payments skyrocketed. He could not afford to drive his own truck any more. The company that was financing the loan for the truck had a lien, so he sold it for what he could, but still had to make up a significant deficiency on the loan by having family members use their savings. He lost his house and the high-end sports car he had just purchased. He now works as an airport shuttle driver, taking people to and from the terminal, which is ironic in the sense that if you kill beers, you can't drive beers anymore, but you can still drive people. He will be out of his normal work for three years, so enough time will have elapsed without any claims that he can apply for insurance, but he will have start his business all over again at that point.

The sad part of the story is he had worked his tail off to acquire his home and car. He was trying to grow his own business, but the risk he took was trying to expand into different territories, which caused the business to plummet. Unfortunately, this story is not unusual in that industry, because a lot of truck drivers file for bankruptcy. Many owner/operators are unfamiliar with running a business and they do not know about all of the taxes and fees they have to pay.

Another truck driver hard-luck story involves a client who was giving his wife his pay check every week to take care of the household and his business requirements. She always told him everything was covered and he had no reason to suspect otherwise. He never had a problem until he was pulled over by the Department of Transportation. He gave the DOT officer his cab card, license and registration, as usual. After the officer checked the truck driver's credentials, he handcuffed the driver and told him the cab card was forged and his truck had not been registered with the DOT for the last seven years.

While in custody, the driver was told that to registered his truck with the DOT for all of the years he missed, plus the penalties for being overdue, it would cost him around $40,000. When he called his wife from jail, she claimed she had registered the truck and it was all a mistake. When he was released a short while later, the driver returned home to find his house cleared of everything, including his wife. who had disappeared into thin air. He finally found out that for many years his wife - to whom he had been married for 20 years - had apparently not been paying the mortgage on the house, the household bills, or the registration on the truck. Instead, she had pocketed all of that money.

The unusual and hard to believe circumstances involves the real estate the driver believed was in his name. He assumed his wife had been paying all of the bills over the years and that his name was on the deed for their house and lot. However, when we typed in his name into the county database, it did not pop up, which indicated he did own any real estate. We then acquired a copy of the deed and determined that in 2007 she stopped paying the mortgage. In 2010, there was a mortgage foreclosure. In 2012, the bank bought back the house at a Sheriff's sale. In 2013, the wife just vanished into the wild blue yonder. The couple had been living in the house for years without paying a penny on it, while the wife was stashing all of the cash – his hard-earned money.

The truck driver's livelihood was at stake, so he had little choice but to file bankruptcy. We worked closely with agents at the Indiana Department of Transportation to forge a deal in which the driver would pay the current registration fees immediately – over $12,000 – and then pay back the overdue fees for the previous years over a five-year period. Given the unusual circumstances of the driver's case, the DOT approved the plan.

Unfortunately, the unusual circumstances described above are not really that unusual. It is hard to believe how many bad luck stories we hear that are almost unfathomable but true. The many people that experience all of that bad luck are not bad people. They are just unlucky, like people who get hit by lightening in an open field are unlucky. Sometimes bad things do happen to good people.

A not-so-unusual circumstance that forces many people to file bankruptcy is the arrival of unexpected and overwhelming medical bills. We have worked with hundreds of clients who have suffered under the weight of medical bills, because they mistakenly thought they had sufficient insurance coverage, or their employer did not pay the premiums on the group policy, or some other circumstance occurred that was impossible to foresee.

We had a client whose doctor told him he worked with his policy group, when in reality the physician was not approved by the insurance company. The client received a huge bill from the doctor, who is now suing to collect.

In other cases, hospitals choose doctors who are out-of-network, so patients have no choice but to foot huge bills not covered by their insurance policy, because before being admitted to a hospital, patients have to sign waivers that make them responsible for payment, without a guarantee that assigned doctors are in-network. Patients are responsible for determining if doctors are in-network before they are approved to treat them. Obviously, when you are a patient in a hospital, that is difficult or impossible to do. Unfortunately, we have seen the type of scenario all too often in which overwhelming bills from out-of-network doctors force people into bankruptcy.

The bottom line is that who you are is not determined by your financial status. If you have encountered some bad luck that has caused financial hardship, you will remain the same good person you have always been, even if you need to file for bankruptcy.

For more information, visit www.TomScottLaw.com or call (317) 255-9915.
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