Consumer Bankruptcy Filings Increase 32 Percent in 2009 Most Since 2005

Consumer Bankruptcy Filings Increase 32 Percent in 2009 Most Since 2005

Contact: John Hartgen
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January 5, 2010, Alexandria, Va. U.S. consumer bankruptcies increased 32 percent nationwide in 2009 from the previous year, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) relying on data from the National Bankruptcy Research Center (NBKRC). The data showed that the overall consumer filing total for the 2009 calendar year (Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2009) reached 1,407,788 compared to the 1,064,927 total consumer filings recorded during 2008. Annual consumer filings have increased each year since the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act was enacted in 2005.

“A combination of economic stress, including high debt loads, rising unemployment and unsustainable mortgage burdens, left many consumers with little choice but to seek the financial relief of bankruptcy,” said ABI Executive Director Samuel J. Gerdano. “As these strains continue for U.S. households, we expect that consumer filings will rise still higher in 2010.”

NBKRC’s data also showed that the 113,274 consumer filings recorded in December 2009 represented a 33 percent increase from the 84,926 filings in December 2008. Chapter 13 filings constituted 28 percent of all consumer cases in December, a slight decrease from November.


ABI is the largest multi-disciplinary, nonpartisan organization dedicated to research and education on matters related to insolvency. ABI was founded in 1982 to provide Congress and the public with unbiased analysis of bankruptcy issues. The ABI membership includes more than 12,400 attorneys, accountants, bankers, judges, professors, lenders, turnaround specialists and other bankruptcy professionals, providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and information. For additional information on ABI, visit For additional conference information, visit

NBKRC is an online research center that offers subscribers access to up-to-date research and statistics on bankruptcy filings. The database contains complete information dating back to 1995. For more information on NBKRC, please visit

*Definitions from Bankruptcy Overview: Issues, Law and Policy, by the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code is available to both individual and business debtors. Its purpose is to achieve a fair distribution to creditors of the debtor’s available non-exempt property.  Unsecured debts not reaffirmed are discharged, providing a fresh financial start.  

Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code is available for both business and consumer debtors. Its purpose is to rehabilitate a business as a going concern or reorganize an individual’s finances through a court-approved reorganization plan.

Chapter 12 of the Bankruptcy Code is designed to give special debt relief to a family farmer with regular income from farming. 

Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code is available for an individual with regular income whose debts do not exceed specific amounts; it is typically used to budget some of the debtor’s future earnings under a plan through which unsecured creditors are paid in whole or in part.