I Was Injured and Can’t Work. – Bill

“Dear Steve,

I was the only one working when I seriously injured my back and had to stop working and file for disability. We moved out of our home and in with family for free while my wife looked for a job. At the time I left my job I had 3 auto loans and 4 open credit cards and 1 Past due credit card I was paying off. I had all of my open credit cards for 10 years without ever having a late payment and had always paid my car loans on time as well. After leaving my job it took my wife 8 weeks to find a job and another 2 weeks to get a check. With very little savings and a 2 year old to care for I paid on all my credit cards as long as I could and luckily sold 1 of my vehicles for payoff amount and refinanced the other 2 in together so I would not lose my vehicles.

Now all 4 of my credit cards have turned me over to collections as well as the past due one I was making payments on. I am drawing $884 a month in disability and I know they cannot garnish my wages but what if they sue me.I really do not have the money to pay on these accounts considering a income of $884 for a family of three . We also live in government apartments,are on food stamps and my son is on medicaid. My wife is a stay at home mom due to my injuries I am unable to care for my child.

If my wife goes to work part time could they hold her responsible for my debts? if she was just a cardholder on my account could they hold her responsible? My son draws $251 a month from my disability, can they use his income in addition with mine to make the household income more or would his be excluded? If the creditor has summoned me to court and I have not signed for anything due to wrong address, would they win the case automatically? Family we were living with has lake home, does not check mail very often but checked mail today and found notice dated february 27th for me to come to sherriff’s office and pick up important documents within 5 days of notice. Would the creditor still be able to be awarded their case if I was unaware of court date?

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Dear Bill,

Wow, sorry to hear about your string of misfortune.

I can answer your questions generally but for specific legal advice you’d need to talk to a lawyer in your state. I am not a lawyer, just a guy trying to help.

If your income is all from disability or public benefits generally a creditor cannot garnish that money unless you owe the U.S. government, but they can still sue you, win, and get a judgment. That judgment may be attempted to be collected on for a number of years depending on where you live.

If your wife gets a job and earns money she should deposit that money is a separate bank account from your disability payments. We don’t want their to be any confusion about what funds are exempt or non-exempt from garnishment.

If you are sued and ignore the court date you are just about guaranteed to lose. Not showing up does not stop anything.

As far as your wife being responsible for some of the debts it really depends if she was a joint account holder or just an authorized signer. As a joint account holder she would be individually liable for the entire debt as well as you.

Since there is little expectation your life is going to return to the previous income stream you had before you were injured, you may want to think about contacting a local free bankruptcy clinic, that you can find here, and talk to them about possibly discharging your debt and getting a legal fresh start.

At the very least it would stop all the suits and years of possible action on these debts and let you focus on getting better and recovering. It would also eliminate your worry about if your wife’s income may be garnished.

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.


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Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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2 thoughts on “I Was Injured and Can’t Work. – Bill”

  1. I am 45 and disable I am working on getting my knees fixed so with alot of hard work and praying that all will go back to the way it used to be everything will get better. My advice to everyone on this page keep trying to find answer and neaver give up, there is always away to succeed.God Bless each everyone


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