The middle class is disappearing. The economy is losing jobs and families are finding it harder and harder to stretch their incomes to pay for everyday living expenses. Just one unexpected car repair bill or injury is enough to send many, including New York residents, into bankruptcy. According to CredAbility, huge medical bills are seemingly the primary factor that motivates people to seek the help of a bankruptcy attorney.

CredAbility-a nonprofit credit counseling agency that services bankruptcy filers as part of the requirements for all filers under the law-analyzed almost 50,000 filers and found that 20 percent cited unmanageable medical debt as the reason they sought bankruptcy protection. Michelle Jones, the agency’s senior vice president says there are several reasons behind the conclusion including:

The Bad Economy

In the wake of the economic downfall, many people have lost their jobs and, in turn, lost their healthcare coverage. Those who are uninsured and unexpectedly hit with an injury, illness or surgery that needs extensive hospital treatment, can easily face thousands of dollars in medical bills. The cost of a broken leg needing surgical treatment in New York for example runs, on average, $15,000 depending on the type and place of therapy.

Increased Deductibles

Additionally, Jones says many health insurers today are requiring those that do have health insurance pay higher deductibles-the amount of money insureds must pay out-of-pocket before the insurance company will start paying-to offset the skyrocketing costs of health care in the U.S. This could easily be thousands of dollars. Many families these days are living paycheck to paycheck and just don’t have that kind of rainy day fund.

Reluctance to Default on Medical Bills

Lastly, statistics show that many people are seemingly reluctant to default on their medical bills. “With medical bills, people are very compelled to make good on those debts. If you’re sick, it’s the person taking care of you. So they feel bad about not making the payment,” says Jones. So, people hit with huge doctor bills are paying them with their credit cards-often those that carry high interest rates-and facing unmanageable credit card balances later on down the road.

Hopefully as the economy rebounds, less people will find themselves drowning in insurmountable medical debt. In the meantime, however, New York bankruptcy attorneys say it’s important for residents to understand the protections under the law that are available to individuals struggling to pay down debt whether it’s the result of an unexpected injury or inability to inability to pay their mortgage due to the loss of a job.