I often sit with my clients in Tampa, Florida and perform a simple test: I make two columns on a piece of paper and list the pros and cons of filing bankruptcy versus trying to settle their debt.
More often than not, the bankruptcy column has many more pros, while the debt settlement column has more cons. For instance, in a Chapter 13, the monthly payment is usually much less. In a Chapter 7, the monthly payment is zero if there is no disposable income.
Debt settlement on the other hand usually requires the client have lump sum amounts available to offer to get any kind of substantial reduction. So they have to save up. The client has to reach satisfactory agreements with each creditor, or they still have leftover debt. Finally, in debt settlements the cancelled debt is taxable by the IRS. Not so in bankruptcy.