Can Bankruptcy Help with My Debts Related to Car Accidents or Drunk Driving (i.e. DUI)?


While unintended but not so uncommon life events such as loss of job, divorce, and hospitalization are the leading causes of financial hardship that leads to bankruptcy filing, mishaps like car accidents, or worse yet, DUI are also likely to crush you financially, with  civil lawsuits, criminal charges and subsequent fines, restitution, etc.


Filing bankruptcy can help reinstate a suspended driver's license as a result of your failure to pay for damages that were not covered by your insurance (or the judgment amount if you were sued by the other driver's insurance company).


However, your debts for bodily injury caused by drunk driving (i.e. DUI)  will not be dischargeable (i.e. wiped out) in bankruptcy.  The Bankruptcy Code provides that any debt for "death or personal injury caused by the debtor's operation of a motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft if such operation was unlawful because the debtor was intoxicated from using alcohol, a drug, or another substance" is non-dischargeable   11 U.S.C. Section 523 (a)(9).


In a Chapter 13 case, however, debts for restitution or damages awarded in a civil action for personal injury or death (as long as it was not willful or malicious) may be dischargeable.


When it comes to property damages (as opposed to bodily injuries) from DUI, however, you may be able to discharge your personal liability for the debts under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code.  An exception to this rule, however, is when the debt is for "willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity or to the property of another entity."  So basically, if you intentionally run into your ex's car parked on the street, this is likely to be a non-dischargeable debt under the Code.


Finally, traffic tickets, parking tickets and other debt for fine or penalty owed to a government unit are generally non-dischargeable (except when it is for a compensation for actual pecuniary loss).  Some states, however, have allowed debtors under Chapter 13 to discharge these debts.



The information contained on this site is for general education only and it is not, nor is it meant to be, legal advice.  You should seek advice from a bankruptcy attorney for your specific situation.