Almost 18,000 bankruptcies were filed in Utah in 2010, well above the number for 2009, and two Ogden lawyers who filed a big chunk of those bankruptcies say 2011 is starting out fast.
At least one industry source puts Utah at No. 9 nationwide in bankruptcies per capita, up from No.13 in 2009.
Ogden lawyer Kent Winward filed 519 bankruptcies last year.
"We do a hell of a job for our clients," he said. "It's the only Robin Hood gig around ... Wall Street runs the economy like a casino and then they apply a rural-agrarian morality to call my clients immoral."
Winward and fellow Ogden lawyer Roy Cole both say after the usual holiday/early January lull, bankruptcy filings have taken off again.
Winward filed Utah's bankruptcy No.1,500, the case number applied, on Feb. 10. That puts statewide filings on a pace easily surpassing 2009 and possibly 2010, if it holds up.
Winward thinks it will, because all of those who filed bankruptcies in 2003 will be eligible to file again. The law requires an eight-year wait between declaring bankruptcies.
Plus, he said, people have figured out that the tighter requirements for bankruptcy filings that went into effect in 2006 have no teeth. Basically those changes amounted to a "means" test that kept the wealthy from filing bankruptcy, when it's always been the poor who file bankruptcy, he and Cole said.
Cole filed 150 bankruptcies in 2010, and is on a pace for the same number with 13 filed in January.
"It's medical problems, and it's job loss," he said of the reasons people file. "They're not buying fancy cars that they don't get to keep. They're losing everything."
Winward cited the same factors.
"Ninety-eight percent of the time they've lost their job or have huge medical bills," he said.
Divorce runs third, he said, including the parents of young divorcees who made the mistake of co-signing for their kids' debt.
"The peaks and valleys of a chart of bankruptcy filings matches closely a chart of the peaks and valleys of unemployment," Winward said.
"There's usually a six-month delay after the job loss before they file. They don't come in to see me until it's absolutely necessary."
"The majority of the bankruptcies I see, and they're 80 percent of my calls now, they have two and three jobs," Cole added. "They're doing everything they can to avoid filing.
"It's usually one or two creditors that tip them over. The rest are willing to work with them."
But things are still not as bad as 2003, Winward said.
That year he often filed 100 bankruptcies a month and more than 1,000 for the year, and the state was in the range of 22,000 bankruptcies for the second year in a row.
Officials with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Utah District and the U.S. Trustee's Office for Utah, the latter which oversees bankruptcy processes, said per capita figures comparing bankruptcies state-by-state will be officially available for 2010 in July.
But an industry source, Creditcards.com, has already extrapolated the figures and done the math for per capita comparisons among states, all plugged into an interactive map available on its web site. In Utah's case, Creditcards.com's numbers on total filing are typically 10 to 20 filings less than the Utah bankruptcy court totals.
Creditcards.com shows Utah's per capita rate ranking the state at No. 9 for 2010, with a rate of 6.5 bankruptcies filed per 1,000 population. As Winward points out, the figures are skewed by Utah's high birth rate, making for the nation's largest families.
Nevada has held on to the No. 1 spot for the second year in a row, with Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia close behind.
Those four states have generally held the top four spots the last five years, according to Creditcards. com, only broken up by a few other states edging into the top four from time to time, including Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.
California seems bent on overtaking them all, according to the interactive map's figures, adding 50,000 bankruptcies a year the last few years to be the nation's fastest growing state in terms of declaring bankruptcy.
2010 -- 17,968
2009 -- 14,481
2008 -- 9,256
2007 -- 6,284
2006 -- 5,031
2005 -- 21,784
2004 -- 20,629
2003 -- 21,917
2002 -- 22,052
2001 -- 19,342
2000 -- 15,138
1999 -- 4,052
U.S. Bankruptcy Court,