The number of Americans seeking bankruptcy protection reached a new record, according to a report released last week.
Numbers released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, revealed 412,968 total bankruptcy filings for the quarter ending March 31, 2003. This number is up 4.5 percent from the previous quarter's 395,129. The previous record for total filings came in the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2002, when 401,306 were reported. These totals include both business and nonbusiness filings, according to the report.
The statement said that most of the filings for the quarter, 290,909, were for Chapter 7 protection, which allows for the exemption of some property while liquidating other assets to pay creditors. This number breaks the previous record of 286,584, for the quarter ending June 30, 2002, for filings of this type. Court documents also measure filings by 12-month totals. For the 12 months ending March 31, 2003, Chapter 7 filings numbered 1,135,436, a record for 12-month period totals for Chapter 7, the report said. The 12-month year ending Dec. 31, 2002 had 1,109,923 Chapter 7 filings, documents said. For the 12 months ending March 31, 2002, the total for Chapter 7 filings came in at 1,059,777, according to court reports.
Filings under Chapter 13, which restructures debt into a three- to five-year repayment plan. also hit record high numbers, comprising 119,398 of the total for the most recent quarter, the office reported. The total Chapter 13 filings for the 12-month year ending March 31, 2003 also hit a new high, at 464,369, according to court records. For the 12 months ending March 31, 2002, there were 433,107 Chapter 13 filings.
Chapter 11 filings, which allow for continued business while formulating a restructured payment of creditors, were reported as down slightly, totaling 2,487.
Comparing the 12-month period ended March 31, 2003 to the 12-months ending March 31, 2002, filings increased by 7.1 percent, 1,611,268, compared to 1,504,806 the previous year, the report said.