Everyone falls behind every now and again. Medical emergencies, accidents and other unplanned expenses can eat into your savings fairly quickly and set you back about a month or two. However, if being behind has become more of the rule rather than the exception, you may wonder if you should seek a more permanent debt relief solution, such as bankruptcy. SmartAsset provides four signs it may be time to file for bankruptcy. 

The first sign bankruptcy may be right for you is that you cannot pay your bills. If your income has taken a serious hit due to circumstances that are beyond your control, such as a job layoff or unexpected injury, bankruptcy may provide you the financial protection you need to get back on your feet. However, racking up mountains of debt because of irresponsible spending habits is not reason enough to file. 

If debt collectors begin to garnish your wages, it may be time to seek the protection bankruptcy affords. Bankruptcy puts an automatic stay on debt collections actions, including wage garnishment. The stay can provide financial relief, especially if the amount the creditors withheld was substantial. 

If you begin to receive notice of lawsuits from debt collectors, it may be time to file for bankruptcy. Though you have the right to fight the lawsuit, there is the very real chance you will lose. If you lose a lawsuit against a debt collector, you may have to pay the court costs and attorney fees, which you likely cannot afford. 

Finally, if you are behind on your mortgage payments and are at risk of losing your home, bankruptcy can help. Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to rearrange your debt to make it more manageable and to keep your home. So long as you do not default on the payment schedule the bankruptcy trustee creates, you will enjoy the protections of bankruptcy for the duration of your bankruptcy case. Chapter 13 bankruptcies last anywhere from three to five years.