Intentional injury claims in Oklahoma are usually not forgivable in bankruptcy. It’s not uncommon for people to turn to bankruptcy for relief. But if you’re considering this path, you might be wondering, “Can I discharge willful and malicious injury claims in bankruptcy?” This is a complex question that requires a nuanced understanding of bankruptcy laws. Below, we’ll unravel the details and help you gain a clearer perspective.
Before diving into the specifics of discharging willful or intentional injury claims, let’s first establish a fundamental understanding of bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a legal process that allows individuals or businesses to eliminate or repay some or all of their debts under the protection of the federal bankruptcy court. The two most common types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy typically involves the liquidation of a debtor’s non-exempt assets to repay creditors. In most cases the majority of assets held by a person in chapter 7 are exempt and you can keep after filing. An example of an exempt asset is your house, car and basic personal belongings. On the other hand, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy allows debtors to keep their property and repay debts over time.
Exceptions To Bankruptcy Discharge
While bankruptcy can provide a clean financial slate, it’s important to note that not all debts are dischargeable. The Bankruptcy Code lists 19 categories of non-dischargeable debts, under 11 U.S.C. § 523, which will not eliminate in bankruptcy. These include most taxes, domestic support obligations, student loans, and debts related to personal injury or criminal law judgments, to name a few.
Intentional Injury Claims In Bankruptcy
Among these exceptions is the case of debts for willful and malicious injury. Under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6), any debt “for willful and malicious injury by the debtor” to another is non-dischargeable.
However, the language used in the statute is highly specific and doesn’t apply to all injury-related claims. For a debt to be considered non-dischargeable under this section, the debtor’s act must be both willful and malicious. Its not uncommon for this kind of challenge’s to the dischargeability to be part of a wrongful death or injury that resulted from an assault and battery or other criminal acts.
Understanding ‘Willful’ And ‘Malicious’
The terms ‘willful’ and ‘malicious’ have specific meanings within the context of bankruptcy. A willful act is one in which the debtor deliberately or intentionally causes harm. It does not include cases where harm was unintentionally caused due to negligence or recklessness. The act must be intentional and with the knowledge that injury is substantially certain to occur. A malicious act, on the other hand, involves wrongful conduct done without just cause or excuse. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the debtor harbored ill will or spite.
Disputing The Non-Dischargeability Of A Debt
If a creditor claims that a debt falls under § 523(a)(6) and is therefore non-dischargeable, the debtor can dispute this claim. This involves litigation in bankruptcy court, and the outcome hinges on whether the debtor can prove that the injury was not caused by a willful and malicious act. This is done by the injured party or the creditor filing an adversary proceeding. In this filing the creditor is asking the court to make a finding the act was intentional. If you cannot reach an agreement, the case advances to a trial. At the trial the Federal district court judge will hear the issues and make a decision.
Bankruptcy Attorneys in Oklahoma
Bankruptcy offers a path towards financial relief for many debtors, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The ability to discharge debts for personal injury matters hinges on the specific circumstances surrounding the case. Understanding these complexities is a crucial step towards making an informed decision about your financial future. Here at Kania Law Office, we have the experience to guide you through these challenging waters. If you’re considering bankruptcy or have a personal injury claim to navigate, don’t hesitate to reach out to our dedicated Oklahoma bankruptcy attorneys at (918) 743-2233 or contact us online.