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My Car was Repossessed Last Night - Can I File Bankruptcy to Get it Back?

“I felt violated when I learned that my car had been repossessed.  Yes, I was two and a half months behind, but I had just made arrangements with the lender’s delinquency department to hand deliver a payment.  I can’t believe they took my car anyway.  How am I going to get to work?  Will I be sued?  How will I ever get financing for another car?"
Transcript of call from potential Clark & Washington client

Can I Use Bankruptcy To Get Back My
Recently Repossessed Vehicle?

As your attorneys, we are people too.  Your frustrations and anger become our concerns when we accept you as our client.  Nothing gives us more motivation to fight for our clients than news of a vehicle repossession.  In today’s economy, transportation is necessary if you want to find and keep a good job in the Nashville area.  Many of our clients travel many miles - sometimes even crossing state lines - to get to work.  This is why a vehicle repossession can be so devastating.

You may already know that the filing of a bankruptcy will stop a repossession from happening - but did you know that we can help even if the repossession has already happened?

Don’t Delay Taking Action When Your Vehicle is Repossessed

Here is some good news - if your car or truck was repossessed within the last week or two there is a very good chance that we can use the power of the bankruptcy court to get your vehicle back.

Clark & Washington uses the strategy of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy combined with a special lawsuit filed in Bankruptcy Court called a  Complaint for Turnover to recover your vehicle.  Since your Chapter 13 serves as a payment plan, you must have a way to earn money to pay you household bills as well as your Chapter 13 plan.  If you have no way to get to work because your car or truck has been seized, you obviously cannot perform your obligations under Chapter 13.  Our goal, therefore, is to convince the judge that your vehicle is essential to the successful functioning of your chapter 13 plan.

How Long Will It Take To Get My Vehicle Back?

In many cases, we will be able to get your vehicle back within a matter of days after your Chapter 13 case has been filed.  Our attorneys have established positive relationships with many of the lawyers representing vehicle finance companies, and we can often negotiate a return of your vehicle on a voluntary basis.  If you have filed bankruptcy before, however, or if we are dealing with a “buy here pay here” vehicle lender, we may actually have to take your case before the judge representing.

If we have to go to court, we may not be able to get in front of a judge for two to three weeks.  Bankruptcy court calendars are crowded and the law says that we have to give the lender and its representative sufficient notice. You can help speed up the process by providing us with a copy of your car insurance declarations page and by fulfilling your financial obligations under your Chapter 13 plan while we wait for a court date.

We also find that the identity of the lender can make a difference.  Large finance companies who frequently deal with bankruptcy issues often have set policies for returning vehicles once a Chapter 13 is filed.  By contrast, however, smaller lenders and “buy here/pay here” finance companies tend to be less cooperative.

Will I be Responsible for Repossession Costs and Storage Fees?

As you might imagine, vehicle finance companies will try to get you to pay repossession costs and storage fees.  If you have the money, and the amount at issue is $100 or $200, we may decide that it makes sense to pay these fees in exchange for getting your vehicle back quickly, and avoiding the risk of going to court. However, if the lender is demanding $500 or $600 of fees and costs, it probably makes sense to take our chances in court.

Often we can negotiate with a lender to include repossession costs and storage fees as part of the lender’s proof of claim. This means that the cost of repossession be paid as part of your chapter 13 plan. every case is different, and we will do our best to advise you about the most appropriate strategy in your particular circumstances.

What Can I Do About Damage to My Vehicle or Missing
Personal Possessions After I Get My Car Back?

If you notice significant damage to your vehicle that was caused by the repossession company, or if your personal possessions are missing from your car, we do have the right to go back before the bankruptcy judge to ask for damages.  As you might imagine, however, you will need to have proof of these damages in the form of pictures, receipts, and witness testimony.

You should contact us as soon as possible after you notice that there’s a problem so that we can make every effort to resolve this issue.

What Can I Do if My Truck Was Repossessed Three Months Ago - Is it Too Late?

If your vehicle was picked up to three months ago, and you did not respond to any “10 day letter” there’s a good chance that your vehicle has been sold at an auto auction.  Tennessee law requires lenders to provide vehicle owners with a short, 10 day, period of redemption following repossession.  Assuming that the lender follows the procedures set out for notice under Tennessee law, then title to your vehicle passes to a new owner at the time of the auction sale.

Occasionally, a lender fails to exercise its rights in a timely manner and we still may be able to recover your vehicle even if several weeks or months have passed since repossession.  Time is definitely of the essence when it comes to important possessions so we urge you to contact us sooner rather than later if your vehicle has been repossessed.

Nothing good happens after a repossession.  If you do not take quick action, you will lose your vehicle, and it is likely that the lender will eventually sue you for a repossession deficiency.  Call Clark & Washington immediately to preserve your options if you have experienced a repossession.
Clark & Washington, Attorneys, 237 French Landing, Nashville, TN 37228
Phone: 615-831-7003



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