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Taking away right to sue when wrong has been done isn’t helping Texans

Op-Ed in the American Statesman
by Alex Winslow, Local Contributor and Executive Director of Texas Watch Texaswatch.org

While the state is crumbling under a real health care crisis, Gov. Rick Perry and his friends in the special interest lobby continue defending a lobbyist-driven health care battle from a decade ago that has failed Texas patients.

They want you to believe that taking away the legal rights of patients is good medicine. Try as they might, though, there is no disputing the facts:

Texas ranks dead last in the quality of health care, our health care costs are soaring at a rate faster than the national average, we rank near the bottom in the number of doctors who actually see patients, and we have the highest rate of people without health insurance. These are facts, not spin-doctored anecdotes like the ones the governor and his cronies in the insurance lobby like to use.

Back in 2003, politicians and lobbyists made a pack of promises about what they alleged would happen if voters approved a ballot proposition that severely and arbitrarily restricted the legal rights of Texas patients.
Among them was that what you spend on health care would go down. Turns out, they lied. Now, they are trying to cover their tracks.

Insurance industry lobbyist John Opelt recently said, “We did not and have not led voters astray.”

Really? Numerous political mailers paid for by Opelt’s group during the 2003 campaign tell a different story.

One mailer said the ballot initiative would “reduce … health costs.” Another said it would make “health care more affordable and available for all Texans.”

All of this comes from a playbook they’ve been using for decades: Claim there is a crisis of some sort, say that restricting individual legal rights is the solution, promise Texas families and small business owners the moon, and attack anyone who disagrees.

Texans are smart, though. We know when someone is pulling a fast one.

How can it be that eliminating accountability for polluters, careless nursing homes, insurance companies, Wall Street bankers and big drug makers is good for the public? The answer is that it can’t be.

Numerous academic studies by independent organizations and legal scholars prove that it is a fallacy to claim that taking away the legal rights of individuals will benefit the public at-large.

Whether we are talking about patients, policyholders or small business owners, we have seen time and again that when lobbyists succeed in stripping or curtailing individual legal rights, the public is harmed.

The only ones who benefit are a narrow group of special interests.

Yet every time one of these proposals comes to the Texas Legislature, the lobbyists claim this will be good for all Texas citizens.

Texans know better. We believe that accountability is good and necessary. This is a basic value we teach our children.

When a person or corporation causes needless harm, they should be held responsible for it. Plain and simple.

When wrongdoers succeed in getting away with the harm they cause, the rest of us are left to pick up the pieces and pay the tab.

Texas faces a host of real-world problems, including a broken health care system. It has been a decade since the governor signed away the rights of Texas patients under the false promise of better, cheaper, and more accessible care.

Sadly, rather than admitting he was wrong, Perry has chosen to be campaigner-in-chief and head lobbyist for the special interests.

Texans deserve real solutions from leaders who understand the importance of personal and corporate responsibility, and who want to find answers to our state’s problems that improve the lives of everyday Texans — not just a narrow group of powerful interests.

Three Reasons to File for Bankruptcy




Bailey & Galyen
Your Neighborhood Law Firm

The reasons people decide, after months and years of struggle, to file for bankruptcy are individual and unique. But for most people, it’s situational – an unexpected job loss, medical problem, or divorce has created financial chaos and an inability to pay debts. While the facts in your case are somewhat unique to you, the truth is that everyone who files a bankruptcy does so for one (or more) of the following three reasons:

Reason Number One: Only Bankruptcy Gets All of Your Creditors off Your Back Right Now

Until you downloaded this information, Creditors have outmaneuvered you, putting you right where they wanted. Creditors use bill collectors and attorneys (often paid on commission) to use all means at their disposal – legal or otherwise – to get their pound of flesh from you. This takes many forms:

• Threatening Phone Calls – to your home, work, neighbors, and relatives
• Threatening Letters
• In-person collection visits to your home
• Offers of “settlement” where they get into your bank account
• Repossession of cars and other personal property
• Lawsuits, judgments, and collections on judgments with garnishments and levies
• Foreclosure of your home and other real estate

Their only goal is to get your money. They are utterly uninterested in your personal situation (no matter how dire) and will do whatever it takes to get you to pay. They know something you don’t – that your money is a limited resource, and that they are in competition with other creditors for that resource. They think, if we don’t get their money now, someone else will. Creditors therefore have no qualms about upsetting you personally or ruining your life to collect the money owed them. And creditors don’t care if you don’t have the resources to hire an attorney to defend against their tactics. They don’t care about your sleepless nights and feelings of guilt or embarrassment.

But here’s the good news: a bankruptcy filing automatically stays (stops) all creditor collection activity – even lawsuits, repossessions, and foreclosures – immediately.

The automatic stay is powerful and only available in federal bankruptcy court. It goes into effective immediately, nationwide, and lasts for the duration of the case unless otherwise ordered by the court – a financial force field around you, your family, and your assets.

Reason Number Two: Bankruptcy Can Give You a Fresh Start

One of the biggest reasons non-bankruptcy options fail (such as debt settlement, credit counseling, and debt consolidation) is simply the lack of a “finish line.” For many people in debt, there is simply no end in sight. Whether your income is reduced or your expenses are stretching you to the breaking point, ask yourself: are you trapped in debt you can never repay? When is this nightmare going to end?

Debt is a burden. Its effects on your mental (and physical!) health as well as your personal relationships (with spouse, family, and friends) are well-established. Wanting relief from this burden is a natural, normal, and a positive reaction to a bad situation. This is why we have had bankruptcy laws in the United States since the founding of our nation – because we believe, as a country, that people are entitled to a second chance. Bankruptcy can help good people resolve bad situations.

If you are reading this, you have probably tried all other options to resolve your debts. Let’s go over traditional non-bankruptcy options and explain their shortcomings.

• Debt Settlement – requires a lump sum of money to settle for a portion of the total debt. To obtain this lump sum, you may have to save up – while the interest grows and lawsuits and other collection efforts ramp up against you. Debt settlement companies routinely charge $5,000.00 or more to negotiate your debts and require their fee up front. For most of our clients, the truth is harsh – if you had the money to pay your debts, you wouldn’t be reading this. And creditors won’t wait around for you to save up enough money to pay them a fraction of their debt.
• Debt Consolidation – this essentially refinances your debt into one payment with (ideally) a lower interest rate. This option assumes that (a) you have the credit and collateral (bank deposits, land, etc.) to get the loan and (b) you can afford a payment at the lower rate. If you had good credit and the ability to borrow your way out of your debt problem, you wouldn’t be reading this. For many of our clients, the problem isn’t just the interest rate, it’s the sheer size of their debts compared to their ability to pay.
• Credit Counseling – while credit counseling is effective for borrowers with a small amount of credit card debt, it simply does not work if you have a significant ($10,000.00 or more, typically) in credit card debt or if you have other debts. Credit counseling cannot resolve your medical bills, non-credit card balances (broken cell phone contracts, apartment leases, old repossessions, etc.), and of course debts owed for taxes, student loans, and child support. Simply put, in most situations credit counseling only works for folks with a small amount of credit card debt.

Bankruptcy will, in the vast majority of cases, give you a fresh start through the discharge – a court order that forever eliminates most debts. Wouldn’t it be nice to be permanently rid of your creditors so that you can rebuild your life and take care of your family?

Bankruptcy can permanently eliminate credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, debts from broken leases and contracts, repossession and foreclosure deficiencies, and many other kinds of debt. While some debts (notably IRS obligations, student loans, and child support) are generally not dischargeable, there are available bankruptcy options to deal with these debts as well – most notably, to set up a payment arrangement without any future interest or penalties.

Reason Number Three: Bankruptcy Can Help You Keep your Assets

Sometimes, creditors want more than your money – they want your house, your car, and your bank account. Depending on the type of debt involved, outside of bankruptcy this is unfortunately a fact of life. What can creditors do to your property?

• Foreclosure – In Texas, if you are in default, home lenders have the power to take your home from you after a fairly short period of time – without a court order. Certain other creditors (such as taxing authorities), after filing a lawsuit, may be able to foreclose your home as well.
• Repossession – Your car creditor can generally repossess your vehicle at any time you are in default – without a court order. Once repossessed, they can then sell it as soon as seven days later.
• Garnishment & Levy – While garnishment of wages in Texas is generally prohibited (other than for child support and taxes), after getting a judgment creditors can garnish bank accounts and other financial assets and seize personal property assets to be auctioned off to pay the debt.
• Abstract of Judgment – even if creditors can’t reach your assets presently, after a court order a judgment can be abstracted in the county records, impairing the legal title to your home and other real property. This means, as a practical matter, that it will be difficult to buy, sell, or refinance a home or other real property until the judgment is resolved.

Bankruptcy not only stops these collection activities– it protects your most important property, too. If you are eligible, Texas law allows you to protect your homestead, a vehicle for each driving-age member of your household, clothing, furniture, jewelry, household goods, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and even family pets. And while these assets are also generally exempt outside of bankruptcy, only bankruptcy stops the collection activities against your property and allows you to discharge the underlying debts forever so that you will not face a garnishment of your bank accounts or have to deal with a judgment lien years down the road.

In bankruptcy, as long as you continue to make your regular installment payments on your home and car, those assets cannot be foreclosed or repossessed. And even if you are behind on these payments, a payment plan can be established in bankruptcy to catch you up and keep your property.

The next step – give us a call for a free consultation with a licensed attorney. Relief is literally one phone call away!

Get Creditors Off Your Back

Get a Fresh Start

Keep your Assets

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Common Bankruptcy Myths

Many people who could benefit significantly from the federal bankruptcy laws fail to do so because of mistaken beliefs about the process. This page dispels many of the common myths surrounding bankruptcy.

1. Myth: Your credit will be ruined and your credit score will fall dramatically if you file for bankruptcy.
Reality: You can do as much, if not more, damage to your credit rating by having your credit cards maxed out and paying all your bills late. You can even bring your score down by having too much credit, even if you are paying it all in a timely manner. Most creditors will consider you a better credit risk after a bankruptcy because you have a clean slate, with significantly less debt.
2. Myth: You will lose everything if you file for bankruptcy protection.
Reality: Most states allow you to keep some value in your home, as well as your vehicle and other personal items. There is also a federal exemption amount for interest in a home.
3. Myth: You must be destitute to file for bankruptcy protection.
Reality: You don’t have to wait until you have been sued for non-payment or face repossession, garnishment or foreclosure to file for bankruptcy protection. Under the revised bankruptcy laws, you cannot file under Chapter 7 unless you can show the court that you lack the means to repay your creditors over a three-to-five-year period. But you can initiate bankruptcy proceedings if you can demonstrate that you have no way to repay your creditors.
4. Myth: You can max out your credit cards and discharge the debt in a Chapter 7.
Reality: You cannot discharge certain types of credit card charges or cash advances made in proximity to your filing. If it can be shown that you intentionally charged items or took cash advances knowing you would be filing for bankruptcy protection, you can be charged with criminal fraud. The bankruptcy court may also decide to dismiss your petition as fraudulent.
5. Myth: Filing for bankruptcy protection can cost you your job or your apartment.
Reality: Even if your employer or landlord found out that you had filed for bankruptcy protection, they will likely prefer that to your prior status. Your employer would rather have someone focused on the job instead of personal financial problems. Your landlord would rather have you paying them than your creditors.
6. Myth: Everyone will know that you filed for bankruptcy protection.
Reality: Even though the bankruptcy records are public, few people ever see them. These records are generally viewed only by potential creditors. If you have filed for bankruptcy, they will need to be notified anyway.
7. Myth: Bankruptcy is a sign of failure.
Reality: Bankruptcies result from many factors, including the loss of a job, health issues or divorce. Some of the most successful people in history have filed for bankruptcy protection, including Donald Trump.

At Bailey & Galyen, our bankruptcy lawyers have extensive experience handling all types of bankruptcy issues, including the following:

We will take the time needed to listen to your situation, understand your concerns and answer your questions. You should obtain the information you need to make an informed decision about bankruptcy and your future.

Contact a Texas Consumer Bankruptcy Specialist and Business Bankruptcy Lawyer

If you would like to obtain additional information about Texas bankruptcy, explore your options, learn about the bankruptcy process or discuss your particular situation with an experienced Texas bankruptcy attorney, please schedule a free initial consultation by calling us toll free at 877.345.6767 (Dallas – Ft. Worth area), 866.715.1529 (Houston area) or 866.678.1900 (South Texas). If you prefer, you can also fill out our intake form and we contact you to schedule a consultation.

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