Bankruptcy filings rose 10 percent last year, to a record 1.78 million, according to figures released by the federal court system.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said stricter bankruptcy laws that went into effect on Oct. 17 likely drove the surge. About 542,000 filings were made in the third quarter, an increase of 37 percent from the prior year's period and the most ever in one quarter, according to the report.
A flexible means test to assess individuals' ability to repay their debts is now in effect and forces people with incomes above their state's median level to file for personal bankruptcy under Chapter 13, which requires repayment of a portion of debts. The new law also limits the amount of time a debtor can spend in bankruptcy before filing a reorganization plan.
Five of the 20 largest Chapter 11 cases in U.S. history -- Delphi, Delta, Northwest, Refco Inc. and Calpine Corp. -- were filed in 2005. However, the report did reveal a 2 percent drop, to 34,222, in the number of businesses filing for bankruptcies during the year.
Non-business filings, which backers of the tougher bankruptcy legislation say are increasingly driven by consumer debt, account for 98 percent of all filings.
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