Bankruptcy spells the end for many companies. But the experience nevertheless has lessons that smart investors can learn from and apply throughout their investing careers.

In the following video, Dan Caplinger, the Fool's director of investment planning, looks at three lessons that you can take from companies that have filed for bankruptcy. First, Dan notes that companies aren't the same as their stocks, going through the example of how General Motors (NYSE:GM) emerged from bankruptcy but left past shareholders owning worthless stock in the pre-bankruptcy company. Second, Dan points out that some companies repeatedly file for bankruptcy, suggesting that the industries in which they operate are constantly difficult. US Airways (UNKNOWN:LCC.DL) is an example Dan looks at, noting that the airline has filed twice and is now involved in trying to help fellow bankrupt airline American through a merger. Finally, Dan observes that some stocks actually produce huge profits for investors after bankruptcy. Both General Growth Properties (NYSE:GGP) and USG (NYSE:USG) used bankruptcy as a way to resolve isolated debt issues while giving them chances for their valuable assets to remain productive and rise in value, paying off big for shareholders who stayed the course. Those cases are the exception rather than the rule, but adept investors can sometimes find big opportunities from bankrupt companies.