Many people struggle with medical debt due to an unexpected illness or accident. The debt burden can be overwhelming, leading to significant financial problems as people are unable to pay the medical debts they owe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four families were burdened by medical debt in 2012. Those with incomes at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty line were more likely to struggle with medical care costs, as were those who had children or who had an uninsured family member.

The National Health Interview Survey released data that one in five people were members of a family struggling with medical debt. The data further showed that one in 10 were members of families that were so overwhelmed by medical debt that they could pay it at all. Even when only one family member has significant medical debt, the entire family’s financial situation may be affected.

Unmanageable debt can result in lawsuits, judgments and garnishments as collectors attempt to secure payment. These actions can make it even more difficult for people who are struggling to pay other bills. When people are overwhelmed with unsecured debts, such as medical bills and credit card debts, they may be able to get financial relief by filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In a bankruptcy, an automatic stay is issued, preventing creditors from taking further action to collect while the bankruptcy is pending. If a discharge is granted in the bankruptcy, the debtor will be absolved of any further responsibility to repay most of his or her unsecured debts. In this way, people can start over financially. People that have debts they simply cannot pay may thus want to talk to a bankruptcy attorney for more information.