Q: If I lose a personal injury lawsuit from a car accident, can I file bankruptcy after the trial to wipe it out?
A: Generally speaking, bankruptcy discharges (wipes out) most debts. A judgment from a lawsuit is usually dischargeable, except for some due to public policy concerns, see https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/11/523 (for example, if car accident caused by driving under the influence or if injury was caused by malicious acts). Also, if this is your only debt, the plaintiff-creditor could also object to your discharge if the bankruptcy filing was made in bad faith (for example, if it's really just a 2 party dispute, and you filed bankruptcy only because of that lawsuit). Filing bankruptcy affects all of your assets though, so you'd want to discuss your specific situation with a bankruptcy attorney before filing.
A: The exceptions to discharge are listed in Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code.
Subsection 523(a) excepts debts incurred for-
"6) for willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity or to the property of another entity";
"(9) 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";
Whether your potential liability after the trial is dischargeable may well depend upon the wording of the verdict/judgment in the court in which your personal injury suit is tried. But at times, the Bankruptcy Court may "look behind" a state court judgment to determine whether an exception to discharge applies. Outcomes can also vary by from one federal district to another. Speak with a bankruptcy attorney in your federal district to get the best answer. That lawyer may also be able to suggest other paths to deal with your looming liability.
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