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Can't find an honest lawyer to re-open a Ch 7


frustratedone
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I don't know what to do. I filed for Ch 7 Bankruptcy in March 2002 and it was discharged in July 2002. End of story, life went on.

In 2004 I filed a personal injury lawsuit (i'm banned from giving details)

Now in October 2006 that personal injury lawsuit has settled and i'm receiving money. My personal injury lawyer has said that by LAW i HAVE to re-open my Ch 7 bankruptcy and list this settlement as an Asset. Apparently by law it has to be done because my "right to file" injury lawsuit occured in 1997 (even though I didn't know it).

So, I'm searching high and low for an attorney who will charge me a reasonable fee ($200-$500) to re-open this Ch 7 and have this settlement listed as an asset. Problem is that ALL the attorney's I consulted say they won't reopen any Ch 7 that they didn't originally do. My original Ch 7 attorney said they don't do re-opens. I have also consulted with attorneys who have said they WILL reopen it, but only for a percentage of my personal injury settlement money. As far as I'm concernced that's rediculous. It was awarded to me for an injury. My personal injury lawyer has already taken 50% of it. Why do the bankruptcy attorney's feel they are entitled to it too?

I just don't get it. I can't find anyone. My personal injury lawyer cannot cut a check to me unless they receive direction from the bankruptcy court.

help, how do I find an honest lawyer to handle this?

If were up to me i'd do it myself, but there doesn't seem to be forms for amending a Ch 7 bankruptcy to add an asset (only to add creditors)

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1) Just because you don't like the fee structure doesn't mean the lawyer's not honest.

2) Obviously, since the OP's gone through the pain and suffering all this time, it should be resolved.

I wouldn't walk away, I'd just see what kind of attorney I could find (and ask my own attorney for a referral if possible).

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I'd have to seriously question the validity of this re-open advice. While you may have had the RIGHT to file the PI suit in 1997, you did not actually DO so until 2 years AFTER your bankruptcy was discharged and closed. I don't believe it would be considered an asset of the BK estate unless you had filed the lawsuit BEFORE you filed for BK. I suggest you get a straight answer on that question FIRST, from a GOOD bankruptcy attorney, before you worry about re-opening your BK case - which you could do yourself BTW. Look for an attorney who has served as a Trustee, he/she would know the answer to this question, or should, off the top of his/her head ! Ask THAT question, don't ask for a re-open.

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According to the lawyers the BK HAS to be reopened. I guess there are laws in place just for this reason. Apparently the laws are in place because of previous situations where people knew they could file a law suit but chose to wait until after their BK because they didn't want to give up their money.

Because of reasons like that there is a law in place. Just because I waited 2 years to file apparently in the eyes of the court doesn't mean I didn't do it on purpose. I think it's a bunch of crap, but it is what it is. I cannot sit and wait to see what happens because the PI attorney is required by law to notify the trustee of my BK that settlement money is coming.

The trustee can then by law reopen the BK on her own and recover the fund for the creditors and she's paid a portion of everything she's recovered for the creditors (in the end i'd get nothing).

My only chance to get any of it is to spend my own money to hire an attorney and have the BK re-opened and then go to trial, YES TRIAL to plead my case.

I call BS on all of it. It doesn't seem fair to me that I have to pay my own hard earned money again to an attorney just to prove that I didn't commit fraud.

Funny, not really, I asked an attorney yesterday what my chances of winning were. He said if he could answer that he'd be a weathly attorney because that would mean he has a crystal ball and could see into the future. So I responded with....then why do I have to prove in court that I DON'T have a crystal ball and couldn't have known that I would have been involved in a lawsuit after bankruptcy.

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frustratedone,

Having just gone through a bankruptcy myself, I can feel your pain.

HOWEVER, the question of possible assets acquired through litigation, such as you describe, should have been thoroughly explored and dealt with by your bankruptcy attorney BEFORE YOU FILED. The Trustee should have been made aware of the PI asset possibility. None of what's happening now should be a surprise to anyone.

IMO based on your statements, I'd say your BK attorney let you down. It's details like this that necessitate hiring an attorney at all, as opposed to filing pro se. You should have been better advised.

On the other hand, if your attorney asked you (prior to filing the BK) about possible assets that could be acquired by you through litigation or settlement and you didn't mention the possibility, then you are responsible for your own situation. Your lawyer could not have known about the possible asset unless you mentioned it.

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FrustratedOne... important question:

What was the reason for NOT filing your PI lawsuit in 1997 or any time prior to your bankruptcy ?? My friend the investigator tells me that if there was a valid reason for not filing the PI lawsuit prior to your bankruptcy - meaning the reason was NOT to avoid losing the settlement in the bankruptcy (would be equal to hiding assets), then you would not have to re-open your bk case. He also says you need to speak to your bankruptcy attorney.

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I was not aware prior to after the discharge of my bankruptcy that i even had a cae to file.

My original BK lawyer didn't let me down because the thought of any PI lawsuit was not even thought of.

Bank in 1997 when Phen-fen was originally pulled from the shelves and the news went out all over the airwaves that someone could have damage, I was one of those people who sat back and said, Not me. I've never sued anyone in my life. My parents have never sued anyone. I didn't grow up in a family that thought of suing people. So I never bothered to contact an attorney.

Over the years (1997-2002) I had been to the doctor on many occasions, had my BP checked, and I assumed all was fine. I never once thought about a law-suit. It simply wasn't something that ever crossed my mind.

In 2002 we filed for Ch7, it was discharged in July 2002.

About that same time frame my husband called me at work one day and asked if phe-fen was the drug I tool. I said yes, why? he asked if I ever had it checked out. I said not officially, why. He said that maybe i should. I asked why, there is no indication anything was wrong. He said he'd been watching TV and an ad came on saying the time to file a lawsuit will be coming to a close. I just laughed and said "whatever".

When i got home he begged me to at least get my heart checked, so I did. I received my results in August 2002 (after BK was discharged). It was at that point I contacted an attorney and asked them if I had a case, and they said they'd review it.

At no time was this anyone's "fault". I didn't knowingly decide to file until after the BK because I had no idea anything was even wrong.

That's like asking me "if I were to spill coffee on myself next week, will I sue McDonalds" It's just absurd. The thought to sue never crossed my mind and if anyone had said that in a year or two or 6 i'd be involved in a law-suit I would have laughed.

Apparetnly the law is not on my side though. I have an appointment with a new BK attorney tomorrow. He said he's never seen anything like this before.

Basically I have to pay an attorney a few thousand to open up my BK and have my settlement pay my creditors. Doesn't seem fair. I can only hope to get about 17K out of it because apparently 17K is protected under federal expemptions. But even that's NOT a gaurentee.

The PI attorney said they cannot cut a check without direction from the BK courts.:-(

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Bankruptcy is a very specialized practice, even more so since the recent changes in the law; I wouldn't trust your PI attorney to give you advice on the matter. Most local bar associations have a lawyers referral service where, for a nominal fee, you can consult an attorney for about 30 minutes. I'd call the local bar association and see if they had such a service and then tell them you need to speak with someone who does bankruptcy. There are also publications that list attorneys' specialties, done by peer review, the name escapes me right now. All I can think of is Chambers, but I think there's another one too.

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I have to agree with your new BK attorney. Since you didn't even know you had any reason to file a PI lawsuit at the time you filed BK, then there was certainly no intent to conceal a potential settlement from the BK process. This is exactly what my friend the BK investigator said.

I think this PI lawyer is making assumptions about the lawsuit and because you filed BK when you did.. and every bk case is unique so his assumptions are off-base.

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