A young lawyer called to me while I was crossing the square on my way to lunch over six months ago. He wanted to know if a lawsuit involving a drunk driver hitting a house could be discharged in bankruptcy, even if the driver had been convicted for drunk driving or OVI as we now know it in Ohio.
I told him sure, but only property damage claims, not bodily injury, or death claims. He explained about an uninsured client who hit houses while driving drunk…twice. He had three pending lawsuits as a result. The attorney said he would have the client call. The client never did.
Months later the attorney called to me again with the same story. I gave the same answer. This time he told me that he consulted with other Cleveland bankruptcy lawyers who told him that the cases could not be included because of the OVI drunk driving convictions each time. I stood by my answer.
I was once a partner in a personal injury firm. My area of emphasis was drunk driving, otherwise known as OVI, DUI, OMVI, DWI or BAC. They are all similar and all bad. Any injury claim can consist of the following:
- Property damage
- Bodily Injury
- Wrongful death
Years ago our congressmen showed the world they are tough on drunk drivers and people who are unable to pay their bills. They prohibited them from including claims for death or bodily injury in bankruptcy if the person filing bankruptcy was operating under the influence at the time. It is so easy to win votes at the expense of those who have no political voice.
Bankruptcy will not discharge the following damages through drunk driving:
- Personal Injury, if
- Debtor was under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or the combination of the two, when
- You are operating a vehicle, a vessel, or an aircraft.
This list does not include property damage caused by a debtor under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or the combination of the two. This is the law contained in the bankruptcy code. I have no idea who the attorneys are who advised otherwise, or why they did not read the plain language of the bankruptcy code.
The client finally did call me for a bankruptcy consultation. During our phone conversation I read him that part of the bankruptcy code which denies discharge for only death claims, or bodily injury claims while driving drunk. He wanted to be absolutely certain I could do what I said when other lawyers disagreed.
I understood. Because of two mistakes he has paid out thousands of dollars for lawyers fees, and fines. He did not want to spend more money on another lawyer unless it was true.
I did file a chapter 7 bankruptcy for him. I stopped the three lawsuits against him. None of the lawyers suing him have objected to bankruptcy discharge. The property damage claims have been discharged.
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