Bankruptcy and DUI, OWI, and DWI’s

June 27, 2018

An intoxicated driving offense (such as a DUI, OWI, or DWI) can have a devastating effect on both the driver and the people around him.  Sometimes expensive legal fees can be the only result.  Other times something much worse can happen such as somebody being injured or property being damaged.  Bankruptcy will not always eliminate injury or damage caused during a DUI, OWI, or DWI offense.  The bankruptcy court has an exception that will cause these debts to sometimes be non-dischargeable (not eliminated) during bankruptcy.

Death or Personal Injury caused by Intoxicated Driving

If you were under the influence (such as during a DUI, OWI, or DWI case charge), then anybody you injured or any property that you damaged can create a potential lawsuit claim against you.  You will be held legally responsible for these injuries or damages.  You may even be charged with an additional criminal charge for this injury.

Any civil or criminal liability that occurred as a result of your DUI, OWI, or DWI case will not likely be discharged during your bankruptcy case.   Under Section 523 (a) (9) of the bankruptcy code, an exception to discharge exists for injury or damage caused by an intoxicated person.   This section states that an exception to the bankruptcy discharge exists “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.”   This essentially means that even the civil liability may still exist for these personal injuries if they were caused in relation to a DUI, OWI, or DWI case.  All criminal requirements must also be satisfied because they also will not be discharged during the bankruptcy case.

Can DUI, OWI, or DWI Related Debts Ever Be Eliminated Through Bankruptcy?

It is possible that a creditor will reduce their civil claim or even stop the pursuing of the claim entirely if you file for bankruptcy.  Bankruptcy proves that the debtor has no assets and usually has little or no ability to repay debts.  The DUI, OWI, or DWI creditor may choose to settle or stop collection of their debt due to the bankruptcy filing.

In addition, it could be possible that the debt may be dischargeable if the DUI, OWI, or DWI creditors do not bring an adversary case to prove that their debt should be classified as “non-dischargeable.”  Essentially, during the bankruptcy case, a system exists where you can sue the bankruptcy filer to have the federal court officially declare that any particular debt is a non-dischargeable debt.  These are called adversary cases.  If the holder of the civil claim does not bring an adversary case, it is possible to argue that the claim was rightfully discharged during the bankruptcy case.  This is especially possible where the nature or classification of the related claim is in doubt.

Conclusion: Never Drive Intoxicated

Generally, debts directly caused by intoxicated driving are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy.  This means that you may be stuck paying them for your lifetime.  This is another compelling reason  – among with many others – why no one should ever drive while intoxicated.  Driving intoxicated always has the potential to alter permanently the course of your financial life.

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