Thursday, June 28, 2012

PACER and Bankruptcy – Court Records

This post addresses PACER and bankruptcy – specifically how you can use PACER to make your bankruptcy a bit less stressful. With Pacer, bankruptcy court records are easily viewed online from the comfort of your own home.

What is PACER?
If you've never heard of PACER, you haven't necessarily been living under a rock. Most people will never need to know about PACER. However, if you have filed bankruptcy, or are going to file bankruptcy, you do need to know about PACER and how you can use it to monitor your case.

PACER is the acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records. It is typically used by lawyers, but it is accessible to all.

Why use PACER?
So, do you really need to use PACER?  No, you don’t. However, many people find it comforting to be able to view any documentation that is filed with the court over the course of their bankruptcy. In my case, I had an issue with a creditor who added themselves to my creditor matrix after the bankruptcy petition had been filed. 

I owed that creditor nothing when I filed. It was a mistake, and my lawyer, though a good one, did not tell me about it. It ended up being corrected eventually, but it delayed my discharge by several months. Had I not discovered the documentation on PACER, I definitely would have been worrying about why my simple Chapter 7 case was not yet discharged. Bankruptcy is a stressful enough when nothing goes wrong.

You'll want to use PACER if you find it hard to talk to your attorney. If you'd rather view your court records online, that's perfectly understandable. Bankruptcy is a hard thing to talk about, even with a competent lawyer.

If you're going to file without an attorney (or PRO SE)) you especially need to use PACER. As I’ve said before, I don’t think it’s a good idea to file bankruptcy without a lawyer, but if you’re going to go that route, you’re going to need PACER.

Lastly, if you want to check for milestones as they occur in your bankruptcy, PACER is the place to do that. Those milestones include things like your Declaration of No Assets and, of course, your bankruptcy discharge.

How Much Does PACER Cost?

It costs .08 per page.  That is .08 per page viewed (not just printed). However, you are not charged anything unless you rack up at least ten bucks in charges per quarter. That is why you don’t want to check your bankruptcy status too frequently, or go nosing around and looking at other cases. There have been many people who have become obsessed with PACER, and it has cost them a small fortune. When I was going through bankruptcy, I made it a point not to check it constantly, and I never paid a penny for the service. 

One final word of caution: do not view your bankruptcy court records through third party sites. Entering information on third party sites that promise to deliver your PACER records can make your information accessible to the search engines. The search engines do not have the ability to access your records on the PACER site. Only use

Let me know if there are any other questions about PACER and bankruptcy by me dropping a comment.

May your fresh start come very soon,


Friday, June 22, 2012

Bankruptcy and Car Insurance

I’m back after a long hiatus, and bankruptcy questions have been piling up. This one is about bankruptcy and car insurance. Understandably would-be filers are asking “does bankruptcy affect car insurance”?

In most states it can. This is because most states allow car insurance companies to factor in credit scores when determining rates. So, a bankruptcy could very well raise your insurance premiums. Or, you may even be denied coverage.

However, I think it’s necessary to point out that the vast majority of folks who file bankruptcy have a lousy credit score to begin with. It is rare for a filer to have an acceptable credit score, much less a stellar one. In fact, filing bankruptcy might even raise credit scores for people who haven’t been paying their bills.

Also, some states, such as California and Massachusetts, forbid the use of credit scoring to determine your rates. Many other states have tried to fight it also, but, in the vast majority of states, using your credit score for insurance purposes is still legal.

Some companies (again, except in states where this is illegal), can drop your auto policy if you are in default on a debt you have with them. For example, I had USAA insurance and I also had a USAA credit card that I included in my bankruptcy petition. Because I live in California, USAA could not drop my car insurance, but they would have if I lived in a state that allowed it.

It's just wrong that if you file bankruptcy, car insurance companies are able to use your credit score to charge you higher rates or deny you coverage, even if you’ve never lapsed. Fortunately, there are still plenty of carriers that do not use credit scores to determine eligibility or rates, regardless of where you live. For the best rates, you just need to shop around. You can even get a car insurance quote online.

As always, this and other issues regarding your bankruptcy should be discussed with a competent bankruptcy attorney. I am not a lawyer.

Good luck to all who need a fresh start,